One of the questions that pops up again and again in homeschooling chats and Facebook threads is:
How do I teach my children to read?
Usually this divides folks into two camps: Those who think you need a curriculum, a lesson plan, a step-by-step program to follow (and will offer suggestions, because of course whatever they chose is the best) and those who encourage you to simply relax and wing it, reading will happen in its own time (because it worked for them, so it must be true for everyone, right?).
In our experience, there has not been one, right way for our children to learn to read.
Like most first children, we read with/to Agent E a lot, because, quite frankly, we had the time. I read to her as a newborn while she squiggled around on a blanket or nursed in my lap. I pointed out letters to her. She could recognize the alphabet in print well before she turned two.
Agent E also did the school thing from the beginning, starting at age two at a weekly program at the Y, then preschool for two full years from just after turning three until just after turning five.
She experienced the traditional method of learn the letters, learn the sounds, practice phonics, practice blends, learn beginning and ending sounds, learn sight words, start with basic texts, practice, practice, drill, drill, etc.
She was reading independently by about age 4.5. By "reading independently" I mean she could make it from cover to cover of a simple book with minimal assistance from me. (Think BOB books and early leveled readers.)
I honestly don’t think we read with/to Agent J nearly as much. Wait . . . scratch that. I know we didn’t. Going from one to two kids was IMHO the most difficult family transition we had. (More so than going from two to three, or even from zero to one.) Reading together simply didn’t happen as often as it did with her older sister.
While Agent J did attend "preschool" for a year around age two, as I shared in my post on school readiness, this was
primarily entirely a break for me, not because I thought she truly needed school at that age. Given that this was her only classroom experience, however, for all intents and purposes she has not been to formal school.
We also never did any of the phonics, blends, sight words, etc. work with her that Eva was exposed to. We never attempted to teach her to read.
She was reading independently by about age 5, just a few months later than Agent E started. Honestly, it seemed to happen overnight. One day I was thinking to myself, did she just read/recognize that word? and the next she grabbed a book from the bookshelf and read it to me cover to cover.
Both girls love reading and are ahead of traditional "grade level.” But they got there on two very different paths.
Agent A is only three and not reading . . . yet. Now that we homeschool his sisters, he will likely never set foot in a preschool classroom. We tend to err on the side of the “not really doing anything special” method that Agent J experienced.
I find with him, however, that we do read with/to him a lot (as we did with Agent E) because he likes it and he asks constantly. (Probably helps that his sisters are past the super high maintenance phase and we actually have time to breath.)
I even went all crazy and purchased (as a Christmas gift) some early readers (pre-1 level . . . don’t even get me started on the insanity of that descriptor) that he loves to look at.
So, it seems Agent A will have a little of both “methods” when it comes to reading. Also, he has the advantage of having two older siblings who enjoy reading and spend a good deal of their time with books. His level of exposure to others reading is definitely different than either of the girls.
I truly don’t think one way is better than the other. If your child is responsive to a learn-to-read “curriculum” then by all means, knock yourself out. If your child thrives on simply being read to, and taking things at their own pace, then by all means, follow their lead.
There is no “right” way to learn to read . . . just the best way for your child.