So far, here’s how it has worked for our little tribe.
Step one: Read to them when they are babies and be expressive. Talk to them constantly using rich and vibrant language.
Step two: As they grow, continue to read stories, make up stories, read street signs, store signs, and directions out loud. Don’t dumb down your vocabulary. If they don’t know what you are saying, they will ask, but chances are they will figure it out because of the context in which you are using the words. Play games with words- Pictionary, MadLibs, Scrabble, Words with Friends, Scattergories, Boggle. Make up games.
Step three: Whatever they are interested in, get books and materials to support their interests. Read more together, but whatever you do, don’t try to force their reading. They live in a society where words are plastered everywhere. They aren’t going to bow out of learning to read-pinky swear. If they ask you how a word is spelled, spell it for them. Don’t do the–well, let’s sound it out game. If they could have sounded it out, they would have. Chances are, they are picking up the letter/sound correlation while you spell it for them. The more often they hear it, the more likely it is to stick.
Step four: Support, support, support. And don’t stress! Not every child will read at the same age–not even your own kids. Research has shown that boys tend to read later than girls, but obviously that is not always the case. When your kids ask you to read, do it. My son learned to read completely independently by age 9. At 11.5 he reads practically anything that is put in front of him. His word decoding skills are incredible and all I did were the steps above. He even says, “I like reading words.” My youngest is 7 and she gravitated towards words early on so she has been dabbling in spelling and reading for quite a while. She was also the one who wanted to reread books to us. Our son had no interest in doing that. See–totally different approach. She is not an independent reader just yet, but I know she is very close.
Step five: Enjoy watching their curiosity and natural development unfold.
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.” John Holt