Carrie has four daughters and runs Write On! Workshops--a summer writing camp for children.

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Teaching a Child to Read

Teaching a child to read is a big deal.  And for a mom, your child’s reading progress is often an area of concern. Is she behind? Does he know all of his sounds? Should she be able to read that by now?

I have totally been there and fretted about each of my daughters’ reading levels for different reasons. I worried that one daughter didn’t like to read the beginning reader books. For another, I worried that she could ONLY read the beginning reader books. And another daughter had me worried when her cousin was reading much faster than she was.

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During these years of reading worry, I was lucky enough to discover Mem Fox. Her book Reading Magic: While Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever put all this worry into perspective and taught me to relax around books. Instead of stressing out, my best offense was to simply have a good time with my girls discovering awesome children’s books in our library.  In her Ten Read Aloud Commandments, Mem Fox says we should “never ever teach reading or get tense around books.”  Instead of pushing my children to “sound it out” and read “on this level,” I learned that our time together is better served just reading lots of books with great repetition, silly voices and, preferably, a blanket.

We need to do this often, even 1,000 times–because, Fox says, it takes at least 1,000 books before a child really takes off with reading. But we don’t stress out about the number. We just spend at least “10 wildly happy minutes” reading together every day. It’s amazing how the books add up when you are in the middle of being wildly happy.teaching a child to read

Other tips that help joyfully and naturally raise a reader: 

  • Never insist your beginning reader “sound it out.” If they are stumbling on a word, just hand it to them immediately.
  • Recite lots and lots of nursery rhymes. If  a child knows several nursery rhymes by heart at age four, statistically they will be a fluent reader by age eight.  Once I learned this, I started reciting nursery rhymes to the rhythm of pushing my girls on the swings in the backyard and jumping on the trampoline. It worked.
  • Make reading a reward. Never put reading on chore list or make it the “vegetables” part of the day before the fun starts.
  • Fill your house with books. Take religious trips to the library. Find books at thrift stores, library book sales, book orders. When you discover a library book that your child wants to hear over and over again, order it from Amazon and keep reading it forever.
  • Give your children lots of books. Make it a tradition to bring back books as souvenirs from trips and as gifts for birthdays and other holidays.
  • Keep books in the car.  Fill road trip hours with more audio books and less DVD’s.
  • Give your husband the newspaper and the pictures books. There is something about dads and reading. Statistically, a child has a much higher chance of becoming a life longer reader if Dad is a reader.
  • Be a reader yourself. You count too.  A lot.
  • Use your resources. Make full use of quality library story times and book clubs.

You can read all of Mem Fox’s Read Aloud Commandments here and discover lots more invaluable information that keeps teaching a child to read the  the joyful experience  it should be.

And by the way:

  • Mem Fox is also a brilliant children’s book author. Just go to “Fox” on the JP shelves in your library and you’ll find lots of her picture books. Each one is a winner.
  • I also love Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook.  A few minutes with this book leaves you desperate to read hours and hours to your child.  It’s a classic.

More on Today’s Mama:

 Mother Daughter Book Club

Road Trip: Don’t Forget the Books

Hungry to Connect With Your Teen? Reading Still Works

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