Learning to read, naturally

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I wrote previously about how my oldest daughter began learning to write here.

Like most kids, she has loved being read to and looking through books from a very young age. I remember once finding her in her room at 7 months old quietly reading to herself.

Learning to read, naturally | Happiness is here

We read many books together every day and she also sees her parents reading for pleasure, which I believe has helped foster this love of reading and eagerness to learn.

When she was 4 years old we came across a free trial of Reading Eggs and I let her test it out, thinking that I would see what it was like for use in the future. We ended up having to buy a subscription because she enjoyed it so much. She quickly learnt all of the letter sounds and names and started pointing out different letters she could see around our house. She became discouraged and frustrated however, when it became more difficult and she wasn’t ready to start blending sounds together yet. That was ok, she was only 4 years old and I was in no rush for her to read. I left it up to her to ask when she would like to use the program. She would go through stages of not using it for weeks and then come back to it and progress through a few levels quickly before going off it again. It seemed to me that when she was not using it she was still learning and then when she would come back to it she would find it much easier than she had when she had last stopped.

Over the next year, she continued being interested in letters and words and asking how things were spelled, and gradually began blending some sounds together and remembering some common words. When I saw her getting stuck with Reading Eggs because she couldn’t remember some of the sight words I decided to print some word cards for her to use if she wanted to practice. I showed them to her and told her why I had made them and then left them on a shelf in the play room for her to use if she wanted to. A few times she used the cards to find a word she wanted to write, but other than that she wasn’t interested. I really can’t blame her, it does seem boring to me and she saw no meaning in it either.

I decided that the best way to practice and to make reading meaningful to her was to read books, but I was unsure of what to start with. I thought the idea of ‘readers’ sounded pretty boring and knew that she would need stories that interested her. And then I came across the Songbirds readers by Julia Donaldson. My girls LOVE all of Julia Donaldson’s books so I bought the first level which contained 12 stories. Just after her 5th birthday she read her first book! It only used 4 words which were repeated throughout, but she was so proud to be able to read a book herself. She read the next one soon after, learning more and more words.

'Learning to read, naturally' | Happiness is here

And then her reading just sort of took off! It seemed like she was reading a new book every day. She got better and better and all of a sudden had no trouble sounding out words. She has now learnt consonant blends and long vowel sounds easily. Four months later she is reading much longer books with more complicated words.

'Learning to read, naturally' | Happiness is here

Watching the world of reading open up to her is magical. The look of delight on her face when she works out a new word or finishes a book is beautiful, and I am so grateful I get to share in all of it with her. Wherever we go we are reading! A trip to the shops now means stopping at every sign to sound out the words. The whole process seemed to happen so suddenly that it reminded me of the ‘word explosion’ children experience at around 18 months old. When one day they are only able to say a few words, the next they are saying hundreds and putting words together! Reading has happened in the same way for her. It didn’t seem to matter how much she wanted to be able to blend the sounds together and remember words when she was younger, she just wasn’t able to. One day something clicked and then all of a sudden everything made sense to her.

Just like watching her learn to write, watching her learn to read has once again impressed on me the importance of allowing her the space to master things in her own time.

5 thoughts on “Learning to read, naturally

  1. Pingback: The week that was...Natural learning - Happiness is here

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