Help your little one to build literacy skills part 1

         JMJ8  *When I first contemplated homeschooling my own children, I often wondered about my ability to teach them how to read, even with my own classroom experience as a teacher.  It made me nervous.  I seriously thought to wait after the third grade or so, after someone else had taught them reading skills.

Ring the School Bell 8/180 Days

Everyone reads the newpaper “funnies” before I do.  We post our favorite ones on the cupboard door, and many of our younger guests find their way there before saying hello! A good laugh is good for the soul.  At times in the a.m., it is an all-out war in terms of who gets to read them first, or where someone might be harboring them.  My husband should have priority since he is off to work first, but unfortunately, that is not always respected.

It is probably a smart thing that I connect with the comics after lunch.  At least by then I have been told by someone that I should read “Pickles” or “LuAnn” or “Family Circus”.  I love a little comic insert in my life.  Sabrina’s senior year is coinciding with “LuAnn’s” senior year.  How “funny” is that?  Sabrina is sharing her big decisions about her future alongside a fictitious character.  I may get in trouble for sharing this, but most of her recent idealized beaus are fictitious, such as Mr. Darcy and TinTin, so I guess LuAnn is now part of that gang too!

Sabrina with her first Interior Design class project

Piano lessons followed academics today.  I double-checked the day this time, to make certain it wasn’t a wasted trip.  Sabrina attended her Interior Design community college class today.  I waited in the car while she was in class because it made no sense at all for me to drive back 20 miles, only to have 20 minutes at home, and then drive back to the school.  So what to do?  A question busy moms seldom ask themselves.

I began a wonderful weekly tradition of going to the Barnes and Noble bookstore while she was in class where I eventually, over the course of the semester, did the majority of my Christmas shopping.  What fun!  Today I bought her a durable-looking and lovely denim backpack for her college books.

Spoiler alert.  Yes, she did go to college.   Looking back, this backpack made it through four years of battering at the university.  Now you know she went to university, but I won’t tell you which one just yet. With our tight budget it took a little coaxing to get the backpack she wanted, but this time it paid off to spend a little more.

Oh, browsing in bookstores.  Happy day.  I lost myself in the aisles, and forgot about the world outside temporarily.  I hope the bookstore doesn’t go the way of the dinosaur. Endangered species, as it is now, is bad enough.


When I first contemplated homeschooling my own children, I often wondered about my ability to teach them how to read, even with my own classroom experience as a teacher.  It made me nervous.  I seriously thought to wait after the third grade or so, after someone else had taught them reading skills.

But as life would have it, I started homeschooling when I was downright scared to send Sarah to kindergarten, because of her life-threatening allergies.  And I discovered along the way, how natural a process it is to develop reading fluency.

How to Encourage Early Childhood Literacy Part 1

Ditch the flashcards.  I also discourage the use of technology at this age, as it may promote a reliance on this form of education.

And then, relax.  Reading fluency will happen in its own good time.  I think the reason why I found teaching reading in the classroom so difficult, is the expectation that everyone should  progress at the same rate.  Kids don’t do that, especially in the early years.  In the long run, I don’t see that it really matters at all, when exactly, a child learns to read.


My daughters, Melissa and Sabrina, were right on target with the school standards.

Sarah, on the other hand, learned to read in the third grade, yet she is the one with an exhaustive bank of knowledge in her head.  Now 18 years of age, she enthusiastically shares her knowledge of the sciences and everything else with us.  She was too busy as a 5-year-old, to be bothered with learning to read.  What was she busy with?  She was busy with the scientific observation of birds (she later became quite the bird watcher), butterflies and bees, as well as other endeavors which were more interesting to her.

As a parent, we should encourage reading skills, but not push them.

It is much more important at this age for a child to build their bank of vocabulary words.  After all, what is the use of reading words which you don’t understand?  Surround them with a world of enrichment, such as going to the zoo, the aquarium, and playing imaginary games with their friends.

The following ideas have all been “classroom” tested and “homeschool” tested by me!


  • Read books to your little ones. Way before a child learns to read, they can be read to.  I have memories of 2-year-old Sabrina sitting on my bed with me, going through book after book after book.  Okay, so we didn’t finish most of them, but that is just how 2-year-olds are!  In the process of sharing these precious moments with her, she was learning that picture books were an invitation to a whole new world of wonder and imagination, and learning a bucket of new vocabulary words while we were having fun.  Another reason to read books to your children at a very young age is to teach them literacy skills which will help later on when they are putting it all together, such as learning that marks on a page represent letters and words, anticipating what is going to happen next, or learning about the characters in a book. When reading, scan the words with your fingers from left to right, and you are giving them the direction of word flow while reading.  If you feel they are ready,  then go ahead and point out recurring letters and have fun with the sounds they make.  Some little kids will sponge it all up, others could care less at this point.
  • Find a special place to put the books.  It should be a place accessible to all family members.  This shows that books deserve a special place in your home. A place to comfortably sit would also add value.  In the classroom, we would always have a cozy corner to plop down and read books, perhaps with a stuffed teddy.  This area was used as a reward when work was finished, as well as a station that was always available during free time.
  • Allow your children to “read” to you, long before they actually know how to put letters together.  In other words, don’t discourage storytelling.  For the longest time, Sarah, one of my daughters, would read the first word or so of a sentence, then embellish it with what she thought the rest of the sentence “should” say.  She was using her imagination.  I chose not to over-correct her.  I didn’t want her to feel that reading was a task, but rather something pleasurable.  I was careful in correcting her, and this eventually increased her confidence and desire in reading.
  • Ask a lot of questions while you are reading books aloud.  “What do you think will happen next?” “How do you think the character feels?” “What would you do in so-and-so’s situation?”  Build the intrigue in books, and the passion for reading will be born.

The goal is for your children keep an enthusiastic attitude towards books.  Eventually, when they are ready, they will become lifelong readers!

Stay tuned for part 2 of “How to Raise a Reader”, which will be posted tomorrow.

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** Note to the Reader- Today’s narrative is an excerpt of our family’s school journey from a few years ago, during my eldest daughter’s senior year in high school, a rather emotional year, with its many ups and downs.

May God shower blessings on your family as he has on mine.    Annette


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