But then, Aaron was born, and, lo and behold, he WAS the cutest, smartest, and sweetest, so how could I help but say it like it was? :-)
And so, sadly, Aaron was forced to withstand all my overzealousness as a first-time parent. As a baby, he endured daily practice sessions strengthening his trunk and neck muscles. As a toddler, we drilled colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. And once he hit three years old, I could not stop thinking about teaching him how to read.
The thought of Aaron reading had already been teasing my imagination for many months before. I read How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman and was so excited by the idea that I made up dozens of sight words on note cards. Aaron loved it and quickly learned to recognize many words. (Oh, how we loved to impress people on the pew behind us at church when we whipped out our trusty magnadoodle and started writing words for 2-year-old Aaron to spout off.)
But in the end, I abandoned the method. I really was uncomfortable with Aaron learning how to read solely with sight words. Maybe it would have worked, but it made more sense to me to give him some basic reading tools so that he would be able to figure out unknown words on his own.
Several people, including my mom, had used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with great success. It appealed to me because everything needed was contained in the one book (lesson plans, stories, practice words, etc.), and my need for structure loved that it was divided up into 100 neatly packaged little lessons; it was a way for me to measure progress.
We started doing lessons in January. Aaron was three and a half. He knew all his letters and sounds, but this was not a requirement for this method. (In fact, they would prefer the child not know any basics going into it, but I personally didn't think it hurt and maybe even helped.)
Well, we have just finished Lesson 80, and Aaron can read. It's so crazy and fun and exciting and magical. He can read!!
I know there are many voices on both sides of the argument of whether or not children should be able to read before Kindergarten. I actually don't have much of an opinion on the matter: if they can read, great; if not, they'll learn soon enough.
I taught Aaron to read for purely selfish reasons. Because I love reading so much, I wanted to be the one to teach him this skill. No matter where his interests lie or the career path he chooses, he will read for the rest of his life, and I was the one who got to hear (and celebrate) the first struggles to make meaning of letters. I was the one who heard him haltingly and awkwardly sound out his first word. I didn't want anyone else to get those moments. I wanted them, all for myself.
But enough with the sentimentality. If this sounds like fun to you, then I would definitely recommend this method. Here are a few of the suggestions I would make should you choose to try it out with your child:
- Read the introduction. Sure, it's long (and sounds just a little conceited at times), but the last thing you want to do is jump in and then have to figure it out with your child looking on. You have to be confident so they will be, too.
- Make a chart. I had no idea this would be such a big deal to Aaron, but it has been. It validates his hard work and provides a way for him to visually see his progress and show it off when Mike comes home. (And as a side benefit: he has learned all of his numbers through 100. That was not my intention; it just happened as he studied his chart.) As you can see, this is a VERY elaborate chart and took me all of three minutes to make. :-)
- Sound blending. This is one of the very first things you teach. You hold out the sounds and blend them into each other (for example, mmmmmaaaaat instead of mmm aaa t. After the child says it slowly, you have them "say it fast," and as if by magic, they're able to say the word, which they cannot do if they chop up the sounds.) This took a great deal of practice and patience for Aaron, but it was worth it. (Some sounds can't be held out, like "c," for example. So if you're reading the word "cat," you have to say it with the next sound, like this: caaaaa, and then of course add the "t" on the end. In other words, you never separate the sounds because it makes it too hard to hear the actual word.
- Find a time of day that works well for your child. This one is so important and such a struggle for me to adhere to. If I decide it's a good time to do it, then by golly, Aaron must think so too. Wrong. Sometimes he's on and sometimes he's off. It can even be the same time of day, but sometimes it just doesn't work. Whereas if he's not hungry or tired or grumpy, man, he just whips through the lesson like you wouldn't believe. We used to do it in the afternoons, but recently I switched to the morning, right after he has eaten breakfast, and it has worked great. I just can't stress this enough...if it's not a good time of day, don't do it.
- Don't push it. Sometimes I just want to finish the lesson so badly, but Aaron is whining and complaining and rolling all over the floor and climbing all over the furniture and only reading two words before he has to tell me something, and I am getting frustrated and begging him to finish. Well, you know what? It's not worth it. The whole reason to teach a 3-year-old to read is for the fun of it. A 3-year-old does not need to be able to read. He doesn't. So don't push it. If he doesn't want to do it right then, just drop it. Try again later. It has to stay fun with no pressure or expectation attached.
- No shortcuts. Reading the stories a second time through really does make a difference. And so does reading the sight words the fast way.
- Divide up the lessons, if needed. When we reached about lesson 50, the stories became much longer. Plus, like I said, you're supposed to read the story twice. This was much too long for Aaron's attention span, so we cut the lesson in half (sight words and first-reading-of-story one day and second-reading-of-story and writing the next day). In recent weeks, we have even started dividing it into three sections. Since we aren't in a race to finish by a certain date, the extra time doesn't matter. If there are any other moms out there who have used this method, I'd be interested to know what your experience was for the second half and how you handled the long stories.
- Writing. At the end of every lesson, the child spends some time writing a couple of letters. Aaron has struggled a little bit with this, and so I usually only have him write one letter (as opposed to two), and I'm not very picky with how the letters look. If he makes the effort, then that's enough for me.
- Reading other material. The beginning instructions essentially forbid you to let your child read anything else until he has completed all 100 lessons. In my opinion, this is ridiculous. If I want him to really love reading, then he needs to begin seeing right away how words are used in real life. It hurt a little to break the "rule" (because I am an intense rule-follower), but I point out words to him in the books I'm reading aloud. He reads a verse from the scriptures every night. He reads short little easy-readers. And we pay attention to signs and advertisements when we're out and about.
- Letters and sounds. As I already mentioned, teaching your child letters and sounds before beginning is discouraged. But I didn't know this, and so Aaron already knew them, and I don't think I will do it differently with Max.