As a bookish person who is now also a homeschool mom, I’m eager for my son to learn to read. I know that in my own life, entering the world of books has opened up whole new worlds for me, and I’m excited for him to be able to experience this as well. I’ve seen kids who taught themselves to read at age three or four and who never seem to struggle to de-code the written word. I admit to hoping my son would be one of these kids—hoping that he would dive right into the world of books without a struggle or a backward glance.
This has not been the case. I know I shouldn’t be upset or worried. He’s only 5.5 and his progress is well within the range of normal—he’s sounding out three and four letter words (no, not those four letter words) and haltingly making his way through beginning readers. But it hasn’t been an easy process. It’s taken a lot of effort (and creativity in how to motivate him) to get him to this point.
When I feel discouraged by the process, I try to remind myself of my own story. Learning to read was not an easy process for me either. I have vivid memories of hating learning to read, and when my mom pulled out my old phonics book recently I had a visceral reaction of disgust when I saw it. Yet once I got truly comfortable reading on my own (and I didn’t pick up books on my own for pleasure until age 7 or 8), I took off. Ever since, I’ve read voraciously, and I feel lost if there’s not a book on my bedside table.
So I know it’s just a matter of time for my son. As I wait for reading to “click” for him, I’ve come up with some strategies for trying to keep my own impatience at bay.
Reading aloud. This is one of my favorite ways to share my passion for reading. And my son loves it. When people ask him what his favorite subject in school is, he’ll often say “read-alouds.” This is one of the most encouraging things to me as I wait for him to be able to read on his own – the fact that he already loves the world of stories.
Acting out stories with him. I was so encouraged the first time that my son started incorporating the stories from our read-alouds into his pretend play. Seeing him make up his own mysteries and solve them (like in The Boxcar Children) or converse with a spider on the wall (pretending to be Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web) makes me so happy. I try to encourage these interactions with the stories we read by entering into the pretend world with him—he loves when I join in his pretend games.
Listening to him tell stories. I’ve started incorporating a story telling time into our school week. Sometimes this involves pulling out a wordless picture book and letting him tell me the story. Other times I grab a notebook and write down a story that he tells me out of his head. I feel like this activity helps to give him a sense of ownership and belonging when he interacts with stories.
I know that reading on his own will come for my son. But as I stay consistent with the many literacy activities we do – phonics, sight word games, working through beginning readers, etc. – the things that help me most with my own impatience are the activities that encourage him to love stories. He’ll figure out the de-coding element in his own time. In the meantime, I want to fling wide the door to the world of stories and invite him to join me there.
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