Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thinking Thursdays: Learning to read

Now that he's almost 2.5 years old, Junior J has finally shown an interest in learning how to read!  Previously he would be content to look at the pictures in the books that we read to him, and would not bother to look at the words themselves.  I've read that some kids actually start mastering how to read from before the age of 2, but we did not want to push him since he didn't seem ready.  So it was just letting him enjoy stories being read aloud, and I avoided starting any of those flashcards/worksheets/drilling activities.

Then as time progressed, he showed some interest in learning how to recognize the alphabet, and we played various "spontaneous" games with him, such as getting him to help write the shopping list before we visited the market, pointing out the letters in signs whenever we were out, as well as getting him to match his animals with the alphabet (in upper and lower case):

Since there seems to be two components to learning to read (recognizing common sight words, as well as using phonics), I started the boy on a little of both some time ago.  We would sometimes point out common words in books as we read (such as "the", "and" etc), and the boy started being able to recognize these words when we came across them in books.  He also loved singing songs involving phonics, such as this one (we would change the lyrics to cover whatever we saw in our walks). 

Then recently, we started reading Bob Books during our morning walks together.  Little boy would usually get some time at the playground in the morning, and we would plop down on bench together and read a book or two (these come in a handy size, so they are easy to bring along).  I must admit I initially found the books terribly boring, since they were just simple short sentences with loads of repetition.  The boy also had some trouble focusing on these books, after being used to all the action and adventures he'd get with Curious George and the like (hence reading them outdoors helped somewhat, since there were less distractions like toys!).

But I think the simplicity of the sentences help, and having just very simple illustrations in black, white and red allow young readers to focus on learning how to read the words.  After a week or so being stuck on book 1 and 2 of the first set of Bob Books, imagine my surprise when suddenly, he started reading both entire books aloud on his own!  I think he probably memorized some of it, but he's also been able to point out the words he's encountered in other books, so I guess there has been some learning there. ;)  And a big bonus point is he's now alot more interested in reading these books, and trying to master the words in them.  He proudly declares "I can read the Bob Book on my own!".  

Our reading journey has been rather "unstructured", but I found this mum's post on reading resources/tips very helpful.  How about you?  Do you have any tips on how to teach kids to read?


  1. i really enjoy reading your posts on mothering tips and stuff even though i'm not going to be a mother until much later hehe. i rembr when i was young, my mum would buy alot of books with bright pictures, short stories in both English and Mandarin. so i learnt both at one go and i seem to like those books alot. probably the pictures were very attractive. ;p

  2. Wow, love reading abt how you are introducing reading into his life in such fun ways!! Sounds like he loves learning to read! :)

    Sth I remember my mum did was putting names of furniture all over the house, eg 'chair' on all the chairs. So I'd see them wherever i went and slowly learnt to recognize them without too much pressure.

  3. I wanted to click the link then realized you meant me! Haha. Thanks for linkingbup! Our journey to reading has been rather unstructured too. I think it's important that it is child-led so that they retain that interest in learning, so I also teach Noey just what he wants to learn. So far he can read and spell a handful of words here and there, and knows most of the phonics sounds but hasn't figured out how to blend yet. Junior J is doing well!

  4. Hullo! Here's what we used for Layla:

    Leapfrog's letter factory DVD for letter sounds.

    Peter and Jane for sight words, until she got sick of it after books 4a/b.

    Between The Lions (an Emmy-award winning DVD series) for introducing blends.

    Progresive Phonics (free readers, available in pdfs too)

    Like you, our journey has been pretty unstructured. Layla took to different things at different times, e.g. she wouldn't try blends until she was about 4-ish, so we just had to mix and match!

  5. I think it all starts with getting them interested to read. So books on topics like animals works like a charm for Sophie. Besides that we started her with picture books and we're slowly introducing story books to her.
    We try to get her in the habit of reading by doing it in the car as well as before bed time.

  6. i bought bob books a month ago but haven't started. we started Jolly Phonics just this month and Fitzroy Readers recently. Partly, I think he is memorizing the stories too.

    ps i haven't had the chance to reply to your email. will try to do so soon. xoxo

  7. Wow! He's an early reader! And how fun it is to be reading at the playground!

    I'm thinking of starting the Bubs on reading since she seems to recognise signs. Just wish I had more time (and less distractions) to do so properly!

    Will pop by the comments section of this post and BeanBean's post (I also noted that. hehe) again for suggestions :)

  8. Juanna: Oh thanks, that was so sweet of you to say that! :) Yes, I think nice pictures help! ;)

    Dotz: I'm hoping he is having fun... And that's a good idea, labelling all the furniture, might try that soon! Thanks! :)

    Beanbean: Haha, no worries, I really found your post useful, that was how I got the boy started on Bob Books! And you have a point there that it has to be child-led so that they remain interested...

  9. E: Between the Lions sounds interesting, will check out the resources you've mentioned... Thanks so much for sharing! :) Ya, guess every kid is different so its all trial and error...

    Susan: Yup... animal books worked for us too, and we have bedtime readings, where the boy would INSIST that he gets at least 3 books read to him!

  10. Just Me: Oh I've never heard of Jolly Phonics and Fitzroy Readers, will check it out! :) And don't worry, take your time!

    Corsage: Haha, I think alot of kids are starting really early nowadays, I was starting to wonder when he'll ever be interested in trying to read! :p And yes, I like the playground reading sessions... :) Will show you the Bob books later!

  11. Glad to know that your boy is starting great on this life-long hobby i.e. reading! He might be a great writer like you too in the coming few years :)

    My girl loves to read and it's a joy to teach her reading.

    However my boy is a different story... He's quite turn off whenever I spelt any sign/word to him or sound the letters. I'm now trying various kind of books (superheros, racing cars etc.) hopefully he'll start to have an interest. It's abit difficult since he's already 4 which means all the starter books seems so boring to him.
    Anyway your post is a great encouragement as it reminds me not to give up :)

  12. I think Jolly Phonics is an English system whilst Fitzroy Readers was developed here in Melbourne, Australia. I just started Jolly Phonics with him and he loves it. Check it out. can buy from book depository.

  13. CE: Thanks! I guess its different for every kid... hang in there mummy!

    Just Me: Oh will check both out then, thanks! :)



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