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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My ds is trying to teach himself to read and write, and I am tempted to just stay out of the way--by this I mean just keep reading to him, answering questions and talking about reading but not developing any lessons or any scheduled times to "work" on reading. Is this crazy? I'm afraid that if I follow this approach I'll miss this wonderful chance to harness his passion and help him reach a goal. But I also think the little fellow might pull it off on his own.

I'd love some feedback.

I also should add that Jack does go to school. We live in Moscow, Russia and two buildings from our apartment is a wonderful kindergarten for disabled children (my son isn't but was admitted to the school any because the school administrator liked the idea of having a foreign family as part of the community). Since we want him to enter the culture here a bit, and speak Russian and learn to swim (the school has a pool and great swimming instruction) he spends a few mornings a week there. Obviously, the school doesn't provide reading instruction in English so I'm on my own.

Also, I have a 2 and an 8 month old as well, and my efforts at "teaching" have been sporadic at best. We did a few lessons from Teach Your child to Read in 100 lessons a few months ago, but Jack seemed to lose interest.

We are a no-tv reading family--my kids start the day asking for books, "read" to each other, and read a few times through out the day. Is this a rich enough environment for reading to begin "naturally"?

Thanks for any input.

Suzanne

Moscow mama to Jack (3/2000) Mick (3/2002) and Elizabeth (4/2004)
 

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One of the hardest things I've ever done was to sit on my hands and bite my lip while my daughter taught herself how to read. We'd done the lessons , we'd done formal school work , we'd done phonics , we'd done required reading , and all it left with her was a bitter taste of something she used to enjoy.

Stick with story time. Ask him to tell you stories that you can write out and he can make a book out of them , PLAY with magnetic letters , get a spelling game (like Boggle Junior), and by paying attention and having a learning rich enviroment (like no tv...good job
) he'll be reading very very soon.
 

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If he wants to learn, teach him as much as he asks for. My dd started out learning the sounds that letters made. Then she learned that they go together to make words. She sounded out her first word before she was 3, and is a pretty good early reader at barely 4. Although I formally homeschool her, she has learned to read mostly through me reading her simple books and pointing to the words, and then later figuring out the words by herself.

I don't think it's wise to push kids, but if he's begging to read, why not go with it?

Darshani
 

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I agree to keep it play based. The suggestion by the previos poster were all really good. I also wanted to add rhyming books- like Dr. Seuss are great for that age. They give you a clue as to what is coming next. Try reading the first line and leaving a blank where the next rhyme will be and see if he can fill it in. Makes him feel like he's "reading", especially if you follow where you're reading with your finger. Give him really simple books to memorize, and let him "read" them to you. Get some of those early reader books that have pictures in the story , make your own stories up and write them down, give him tons of paper and writing implements of all types. Take a plastic tub and fill it with sand or rice or something, and give him some little figures- plastic animals, etc, and let him make up stories with it. Let him make labels for common items around the hosue and stick them up- both in English and Russian. Gather sticks when you go out in the yard or for a walk and make letters out of them, look for letters in nature, read common signs to him- especially those with pictures or recognizable symbols/colors. Make letter shapes with your body, draw them in sand, sidewalk chalk, etc. Walk the letter shapes outside (or in if you have the room). Do lots of repetition with the stories, songs, fingerplays that you do together- repetition (while boring for us) is really good for learning at that age.

I would toss the 100 Easy Lessons- I hated that book LOL
 

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Have you considered the Bob Books? My 4.5 year old has been dying to learn to read for a long time. We tried 100 easy lessons and didn't enjoy it at all. We tried phonics with no success. I finally broke down and bought the Bob Books set 1, and he LOVES these. He can read the first few by himself allready, and I do not mean he has them memorized, he can actually read the words in them. They are each really short and simple. The illustrations are very simple, so the kids can focus on the words more, and they build on each other in such a way that they logically add new letter sounds in each book. By the time you finish them, the child will have learned all the letter sounds except Q, but without any formal phonics lesson drudgery. You can also make the finger puppets to go with the stories and let your child read the story to you while you act it out with the puppets. I am so glad I bought these!
 

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My 4 year old son reads whatever he wants. If he gets stuck on a word and I am nearby then I help him out. He reads signs, labels, everything in the newspaper, whatever. It's so sad this week because he loves the paper but I can't show him the tsunami stuff. He started reading on his own just after turning 4. We don't do anything except ask him to read sometimes.

We give him lots of books to read and time to explore them. He has no interest in drawing or writing yet but I haul out the pencils and crayon periodically anyway. He'd rather peel the paper and play with the crayons...

Sounds like your son is reading and it's just a matter of providing things for him to read. Is there a library with children's books in english? We borrow a LOT of books on whatever topic he and we find interesting, even books for adults.
 

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My son taught himself to read at 2 and my 6.5yo just recently taught herself to read... months after I gave up trying to teach her because it wasn't working. I'd help him out with whatever he asks, but otherwise stay out of his way. If he's used to a bookish environment, he'll learn when he's ready.
 

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have you seen www.starfall.com. It would be easy for him to putz arund and learn at his own pace. At the same time itis very learning oriented. You can also print out the books and writing pages. My dd loves it and does everything on her time table and as many or few times as she wants. We aren't ready and she isn't intrested in reading but she enjoys the games and is leanring anyway.

I would ask him what he wants. Does he want you tot each him? keep reading? let him alone?
 

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I'm having a hard time even understanding how it's a question. That's not meant to be offensive, but it's my honest first thought. I'm all for following a kid's lead, but if he's leading you to help him read, go with it. There's plenty he can figure out "on his own" even if you're helping him along the way. I would have a certain level of concern, that without help, it may become too frustrating, that is, if he seems to even want help in the first place. If he is acting as though he's enjoying much more learning on his own, well then that's something else. But I don't think I'd leave it solely to him, just for the sake of leaving it solely to him.
 

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Keep doing what you are doing. He'll do the rest.

I'm still amazed at how well my ds reads. I never did anything to "help" him along. We had daily story time and when he started to point to words and tell us what they were we'd encourgae this by getting him to say those words in the story. Sometimes he just boaked at this and we didn't push it. Now that he has a grasp of reading and is now asking how to spell words, I am trying to show him the phonetics of the letters and words. Then again if he is not into that at the time we just tell him the word. Usually after a couple of times being told he knows the word.

He has been reading since he was 3.5yrs. His brother is 4yrs and not even close to reading but is now showing interest in the words.
 

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Just want to second the starfall.com recomendation. My 4 1/2 y.o. is just beginning to read, and she has enjoyed that site. I can tell that it's helped her learn some of the short vowel sounds, etc. I don't do it with her -- just let her play with it like any other computer game.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by umbrella
There's plenty he can figure out "on his own" even if you're helping him along the way. I would have a certain level of concern, that without help, it may become too frustrating, that is, if he seems to even want help in the first place.
I guess it's a question of what you consider "on his own" or "with help". I've always simply provided a variety of tools and resources and given my kids reactive help, rather than proactive help. In other words, I react to their questions ("what does I-C-E spell?") with the requested answers ("it spells ice"). I don't take that question and then develop a pro-active teaching strategy ("well it spells ice, because the E at the end is a special E. That E does two things. The first thing is about changing the sound of a vowel. Last week I showed you which letters are vowels. Do you remember which they were?....")

I have three kids who learned to read with nothing other than reactive help: me taking their questions at face value and answering them simply. One was 3 1/2, another was 6 3/4, another was 4 1/2. There was no frustration evident. Sure, each of them wanted to be able to read before they were able, but I just told them that like reaching 4 feet in height or staying dry at night or riding a 2-wheeler, different children grow at different rates, and I was confident they'd get there when they were ready. And they did... easily, according to the "literacy acquisition strategy" that was optimal for each of them and with full ownership of the process.

If they were at the point when things weren't 'clicking' easily with my sort of reactive help, it was easy for them to just let things lie fallow until they began germinating in their own good time. That's because there was no loss of face, there were no external expectations, they had no desire to do well enough to make mom proud, they had no need to 'get it' so as to feel they were learning what they 'should'.

By contrast I have seen plenty of frustration in kids being "taught" to read. That can occur because kids have internalized expectations that they are worried they can't live up to, because the teaching style isn't optimal for their learning style, because they're not developmentally ready, because they're afraid of failing publically.

Pro-active teaching raises the stakes. For some kids that can make learning too much of a gamble for comfort. Unless a child is specifically requesting a structured program of teaching, or seems to be lacking some of the basic phonemic awareness that allows him to appreciate that words are comprised of sequences of phonetic sounds, I'd just stay out of the way.

Miranda
 

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I am fairly against specific reading instruction (especially before 8 or so) but I ended up doing 3 weeks of "Hooked on Phonics" with DD when she turned 4. She had known her letters & their sounds for two years and the fall before (when she was 3.75) I realized she had taught herself to read "the basics" (short words, easy readers) but she was getting really frustrated at not being able to take that next step. So, I got Hooked on Phonics from the library, let her go at her own pace (so 30 minutes a day, 3-4 times a week) and skip what she didn't want to do. I think she made it through book three or something before deciding she was done. She went in that month from very basic readers (pre-Poppleton) to around a 2nd grade reading level (Magic Tree House). I really wanted her to do it "on her own" but she just couldnt figure out *what* to read and how to put it together. I had some regrets over her being an early reader ("Mom, what is shooting and why can't you do it in city limits?" type stuff) but it really made her life easier!

Kay
 

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Quote:
Pro-active teaching raises the stakes. For some kids that can make learning too much of a gamble for comfort. Unless a child is specifically requesting a structured program of teaching, or seems to be lacking some of the basic phonemic awareness that allows him to appreciate that words are comprised of sequences of phonetic sounds, I'd just stay out of the way.


I was just very hesitant to start an actual "program" even at her request. I will try to be more "child-led" with DS.
 

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I have to agree with all the posters saying you should follow your sons lead, if he is asking for hlep and lessons give them, if not don't.

I know some non lesson type people think it is bad to give lessons, and some instructional types think it is bad to go without. I feel it depends on both momms (or dads) teaching style and dd, or ds's learning style.

I am a teacher, I like to teach I do it when adults talk to me, so of course I do it for my kids. Not so much that it bores them, but I do. I also asked my son when he wanted me to teach him to read, don't think I wasn't hurt the first two times I asked, but the third he said yes. there was about 7 mnths inbetween, and I offered because he wasshowing signs of readiness. He is now almost 3 and reads better than the average first grader (I only know that from my years as ateacher)

I checked out the starfall website, there is some very creative work there, it is interesting and my son is already hooked, however he can't use the mouse very well at all, so I am stuck doing all the work for him. Not that I mind to much, but just thought anyone should know it requires real mouse work.
 

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Re: "active teaching" -- It seems as though most kids learn to read regardless of whether there is active teaching or not. As long as the information is not forced upon a child who isn't ready or isn't interested, there is little risk of creating an aversion to reading. Especially if you have a kid who already loves books.

Personally, if you have a child who is interested in learning to read and has communicated as much (as my dd has, and the OP's ds has), I don't quite see the point of withholding information that might be helpful to them in their goal. So if my dd pronounces the word "bike" with a short "i", and knows that can't be right (because it's not a word), I remind her that a silent "e" makes the vowel say it's name. That's active teaching, I guess, but she seems grateful for the reminder. It clears up her confusion, and helps her pronouce other "silent e" words in the future. If she resisted that kind of information, I'd stop offering, but since she doesn't, I would consider it kind of mean of me if I *didn't* offer. JMO
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I am so glad I asked this. This discussion got to the heart of the matter for me--how much instruction, how much play, how much let our children pursue their own pleasures and discoveries.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful responses. Lots of food for thought and good suggestions.

I just keep remembering the part in To Kill a Mockingbird where Scout learns to read by reading the paper with Atticus. I can really feel something starting to happen.

As I've tried different approaches over the last two weeks or so, what I have concluded is that what my son wants from me is some companionship as he works and some guidance. For example, when the little guys nap he wants me to write words--today we wrote out "space" words on large black construction paper with a white crayon. He was in heaven. He would just request the word--"asteroid" for example--I'd write it, and we'd sound it out together. Or he'd look in one of his planet books and read off the letters--"S-A-T-U-R-N"-- to me while I wrote them down.

He was in seventh heaven. I really think that for him the reading impulse is two fold 1) he loves books and wants to know anything about everything and 2) he's after a certain quality of attention and affection that for us have always been caught up in reading/snuggling/preparing to sleep/nursing the baby, etc. Reading is warm and loving and cozy. He likes the companionship of it.

We are having so much fun now with all of this--we're playing with all our old alphabet stuff--foam letters for the bathtub, fridge magnets, puzzles, etc.--again, but with a focus on sounds instead of letter identification. We made alphabet bread. We sprayed shaving cream words in the bath. But mostly Jack just wants to sit side by side, watch me write out words and practice his own letters. We make lists of words that start with the same sounds, rhyming words, favorite animal/construction/monster/astronomy terms. He seems to have bottomless interest in this particular activity.

I do think play is the way to go for us right now--Jack hasn't reached any limits or frustration following his own implies and just seems to be growing ever more capable and curious.

However, my son is now writing most of the letters that can be reversed backwards--T I and H are by the book perfect, but B, N, D, etc. aren't. He seems to take it in stride when I point it out, but I also think he might right himself as he works with his write and wipe booklets. What would you do?

Also, he seems to think the books he has written are actual stories and gets very frustrated when adults can't read them. If we try to make up a story that seems to go along with his drawings, he gets peeved. But he won't read them to us. Once or twice I've him that he's practicing now, and that his words are pretend words, and that soon enough he'll be writing real words and sentences and then stories, but this doesn't seem to satisfy him or me.

Anyway, thanks for the input. I've loved the discussion.

Suzanne
 

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Quote:
However, my son is now writing most of the letters that can be reversed backwards--T I and H are by the book perfect, but B, N, D, etc. aren't. He seems to take it in stride when I point it out, but I also think he might right himself as he works with his write and wipe booklets. What would you do?
My dd's preschool teacher said that many children physically cannot *see* the difference between a backward facing and a forward facing letter until a certain age. I can't remember what age she said, but seems like it was around 6 or so. My dd Brianna writes her names in all caps with the N's in mirror image about 90% of the time.
Based on the info from the teacher, I just let it go without comment, figuring she'll get it right when she gets old enough to have awareness about it.
 
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