Tuesday 24 January 2012

Teaching Children to read

I see people regularly discussing the best way to teach their children to read and when is the best time might be.  One person came up to me recently and said, I don't know how to teach my child to read, they're just not interested.  From my experience for each child it is different and there are different ways.  It is just finding a way that doesn't stress the child out and is fun!  I suppose I've been lucky so far in that my first child taught herself to read and my 2nd and 3rd both asked at age 3 for me to teach them to read.  If they ask then it's them wanting to learn and there's not much need to encourage them to sit down and try to learn words.  They're more eager.

I think like most things in a child's learning it's doing it in their own time.  Mind you I have found for Naomi she has to read books that she's really interested in, mainly funny books, she has a great sense of humour.  If she doesn't like the book she simply won't read it.  Also a lot of her reading was improved through writing exercises - She struggled at first and we have only just discovered why recently.  She has, what our optician calls, visual stress.  There is an online test here if anyone is interested.  You can also read more information about it on this link.  Such a simple change and such a huge difference.  

Honi on the other hand is a complete computer fan.  All her learning is backed up with interactive educational games, whether it be maths, science or reading.  She's a bit of a natural with the computer, like my eldest.  Right from the start she would know what to click and where to go, what buttons do what on the remote.  So hours are often spent on the computer either in Education City or Reading Eggs.

One thing I have found with my girls is all their early reading was started off with the Oxford Reading Tree series.  We did do a lot of mix and match but I think it was Floppy the dog that they loved so much that made this series work for us.  As I say it's what they're interested in that makes the difference.

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of this website, Reading Teacher.  I found that the phonics were too American for Hone though.  What she did try was far too easy for her too, I'm sure it gets increasingly hard.  Reading Eggs has worked well for us though and if something works I stick with it unless it stops.

Other books we've used to teach reading to the children have been:

  • Ladybird - Read by yourself series.  I find that the levels go up in steps that seem a little too large for most children though the first ones are brilliant at building confident. 
  • My girls are all Pooh bear fans and we have the Winnie the pooh learn to read series also by Ladybird.
  • Books like Pirate Pete from the Tapdpoles series my girls loved getting out of the library as they become more independent with their reading.
  • And books like this one from the Reading phonics corner has been a hit with N in the past.

I think also reading books out to them helps a lot.  A few really good books to read to the kids in my opinion are:

  • The BFG, actually lets face it anything by Roald Dahl is amazing!
  • Michael Morpurgo books are also amazing.  Favourites in this house are Adolphus Tips, War horse and Kensuke's Kingdom.  I particularly like that the boy in the story is home educated, we are admittedly only half way through this one but had to add it because so far it is brilliant!
  • The disgusting Dave series is very funny.  N is usually giggling along while I read any of his three books.  The very best has to be the first Disgusting Dave and the farting Dog it is by Jim Eldridge who is an adult fiction writer normally but has started this new series.
  • Another writer who is an adult fiction writer is Jo Nesbø.  A genius writer and I love reading his books and, I know I should really keep this a secret, I would happily read it all by myself tucked up in bed!  He has a series of children's books and the first one, I would start with that one is Dr Proctor and Fart Powder.
  • Enid Blyton is a lovely read to read out to the younger ones too.
  • Of course there is Dick King-Smith, with too many to say - brilliant for children who are animal lovers as I know most children are.

These are our favourites to read out loud anyway.  I would love to hear from any of you out there on what your favourite books are or any tips on how to teach reading to children that you have picked up along your journey of teaching children to read.

Naomi is more confident with her reading these days and loves reading Roald Dahl's shorter stories like the twits and she loves the seriously silly stories series, they get downed in under half and hour.

While Chiara, who has been reading for years now, loves reading Animal Ark and Holly Webb books and Michael Morpurgo as she is an animal fanatic.  Mind you she has recently read Peter Pan.  The film insprired her.  She also subscribes to the Animals and You magazine, Animal Action magazine and Kids National Geographic.  Anything they love reading, words are all that matter after all.  Does it really matter if it's a computer magazine, instructions to games, history books.
Also it's important not to get stressed.  It doesn't matter if it takes one child longer than another to be able to read, it's not a race, what counts is you leave to door open and guide them through their options until they find the way they like best.  Learning should be fun.


  1. My son 9 loves the how to train your dragon series, Percy jackson books and also the Erago series of books, as you can tell he likes fantasy books mainly, i think they go hand in hand with his gaming.

  2. Percy Jackson! I saw that film it was brilliant. Thanks for contributing Sharonmanc xxx

    A friend of mine has just reminded me of Dr Suess as well. I can't believe I forgot him! :)

  3. my kids are 5, 5 and 3, all girls, we love me reading from enid blyton, dr suess and 'mary mary stories' joan g robinson ... teddy robinson stayed in print but these are better!

    we actually have some peter and jane books for reading themselves, mary who is three sits with me and reads me all the letters ... she has learned herself ...

    funnt you posting this lest night, as we had a break thru with one twin, after some time and diff things she finally learned that e says eh, not ih!

    i pushed her a bit, and there were tears in the middle, but i felt i ought to, and by the end she had made up a song going EHHH EHHH EHHH! all around the house ! her other sisters were so excited for her!

  4. Letterland was good for us, but all the phonics we could get were really useful. They knew the letter sounds by the time they were about three: putting them together into words comes naturally afterwards, doesn't it? Great post btw x

  5. Raggy Rat, it can feel like a battle when they want to know something but get frustrated with themselves. C used to like that with other things. Just because she found that most things just come to her, as soon as something was slightly challenging the tears flowed. ASking her to stop would make it worse and once she'd conquered it she was super happy, as you say, dancing round the room. I think it depends on the childs personality to what they need and mum usually knows whats best xxx

    Peter and Jane! I grew up with them :) I forgot all about that one. I have on and off thought about it for mine but never bought any. I've never seen the Mary Mary stories! Thanks for pointing them out! :)

  6. Hi Gill,

    Mine never took to letterland or Jolly phonics really, although we have a few books. My eldest doesn't go by phonics at all(yet taught herself to read, she started with Dr Suess book, Hop on Pop) and my second is similar. My third is phonics crazy though and yes I think knowing the sounds does lead to putting them together to read words for her. As I say whatever works is good :)

  7. Clarice Bean - best trilogy evah! That's all I have to say about that.

    1. Clarice Bean I have recently bought one, although no one has read it yet. I will have to try it with the girls... Thank you :)