When my two older children were kindergarten age, I began teaching them to read. I followed a strict, structured curriculum that used a phonics-based approach. We began the lessons when the curriculum indicated and followed the pace of the curriculum. My two older children learned to read well and are successful readers. One loves reading and reads anytime and anywhere. The other can take it or leave it. He enjoys a good book, but it has to be something that grabs his attention in order for him to devote time to read it.
By the time my two younger children were kindergarten age, I had abandoned our strict curriculum. By this time we were much more laid back homeschoolers, and I used many of Charlotte Mason’s methods in our homeschool. With these two, I didn’t use a curriculum to teach reading. I watched them for readiness to read, a desire to be able to read independently. We worked on reading related skills, but “teaching” them to read was more relaxed and happened much more naturally. As with my first two, both of these children also learned to read successfully. One loves reading. The other can take it or leave it.
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Read without a Curriculum
What I learned over the course of watching my four children learn to read is that learning to read can happen naturally, without a curriculum just as well as it can happen with a structured, formulaic curriculum. In fact, it’s better to go the more natural route because I’ve seen kids get incredibly frustrated with a strict curriculum that follows a carefully prescribed method and assumes that at the end, kids will be readers. Using a more natural approach to teaching reading lets kids learn at their own pace, without frustration.
So how do you teach your children to read without a reading curriculum? Here are five ways.
Read to them.
The key, critical component in teaching kids to read is something simple that is often overlooked. To encourage kids to read and to help them become readers, you must read to them. There are many, many benefits to reading aloud to kids, but this is a critical one. Kids who are read to become readers.
When we read aloud to kids, we create an interest for good books. We expose them to vocabulary and sentence structure. We teach them the language of reading. We encourage their comprehension for a story. Reading aloud does all of these and is a so important in teaching kids to read for themselves.
Don’t stop reading aloud when kids do begin to read independently. Continuing to read aloud exposes kids to more difficult language and more complex books that they might hesitate to try to read for themselves. And if kids are struggling to read independently, continuing to read aloud can give them opportunity to hear higher level books and to continue to increase their comprehension.
Play alphabet games.
Helping kids learn the letters of the alphabet and their sounds is easily done without a curriculum. From store bought flashcards, ABC puzzles, and electronic toys to homemade printables and flashcards, it’s easy to find ways to practice the letters and sounds with kids. Buy a set of plastic letter molds and let kids use them with play dough. Let the kids cut out letters and identify them. Write the letters on a set of index cards and play games having kids pick out letters that you say or make the sound of.
With alphabet games and printable activities kids can learn to identify the letters and their sounds without any formal reading curriculum. They’ll also be more likely to enjoy the process and want to learn when the learning is fun and happens at their own pace.
Point out words and spelling patterns in familiar stories.
Have you ever noticed that little children pick their favorite books and have you read them over and over and over again? And, as time goes on, they can actually recite parts of the book? Use this memorization to your advantage in teaching kids to recognize words in their favorite stories. Start pointing out words as you read to kids. Over time, kids will begin to recognize some of the words they see again and again.
Rhyming words are a great way to help kids begin to recognize spelling patterns. Start by playing a game where you and your child continue to try to come up with rhyming words. You say,” cat.” The child says, “rat.” You say, “mat.” And so on. These games can go on and on. What kids are learning- even though they don’t know they’re learning- is that sounds follow patterns.
Take the rhyming game further and write down the words you’re coming up with. Show kids how words that rhyme have the same spelling patterns. Let the kids practice putting different beginning letters in front of a spelling pattern to make new words. Showing kids how spelling patterns work helps them to begin being able to sound out new words because they know these spelling patterns.
Let your child dictate stories that you write down.
Just because they can’t write their own stories doesn’t mean that kids aren’t full of great story ideas. Encourage kids to dictate stories. Write their stories down and then read them back. As you read, make sure to point out the words you’re reading. This practice will help kids begin to recognize some words. Because they know the gist of the story that they dictated, they’ll also have context clues to help them figure out the words when they try to read the story back for themselves.
The skill of reading is a crucial one. When children can read and comprehend, they can learn anything else for themselves. But even though it’s such an important skill, you don’t need a structured curriculum to teach it. Learning at their own pace, through being read to, through games, and through natural every day experiences can be even more effective than a traditional curriculum in teaching your children to read.