Thoughts on Teaching a Child to Read in a Busy Household

As a veteran homeschooling mom, I’ve had the privilege of teaching each of my five children how to read. I’ve also provided literacy tutoring for a couple dozen teens and adults who struggle to read. In this post, I’d like to talk a little bit about some thoughts on teaching your children to read in a household bustling with activity.

Thoughts on Teaching Your child to read in a busy household

Learning to Read is not a Group Project

One of the downsides of classroom instruction is that learning to read is not a group project. After all, not every child is ready to learn to read at the same age, nor do they grasp the very complex idea of associating letters with sounds and words with ideas at the same time.

learning to read is not a group project. #reading #phonics Click To Tweet

I’ve discovered from experience that you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink, and likewise, you can teach a child phonograms, but you can’t make him read.

You can teach a child phonograms, but you can't make him read. #reading #phonics Click To Tweet

The exact time gap between a child starting to learn alphabet, phonograms, and the basic sight words, and the time when he or she figures out how to put all of those components together to read simple sentences, varies to the same degree of you telling a child he will be potty training, and him actually not leaving puddles behind your couch, wetting the bed, etc.

This may be frustrating for you, as a parent, teacher, or classroom aid, but patience is so important. Reading is fundamental to all other learning. We have to get this right.

Children Learn on their Own Time-Tables

Our children are individuals, and individuals don’t always develop according to our specific schedule or expectations. Sometimes they exceed our expectations, such as one of my children, who started reading on her own out of BOB Books at age 3. We realized she wasn’t actually a genius the first time she took a math test. She just is very good with understanding words and how they fit together.

Another child is very gifted in math but couldn’t grasp reading as easily.

Pressure to comply with a set schedule or be left behind is usually the first step in giving a child a dislike for learning and school.

Learning to Read is Fundamental to all other Learning

Reading is so fundamental, I decided to make sure I went at each child’s pace. I challenged them, of course, to move forward, but at the same time not pushing so hard that they give up in tears.

This is one of those areas where some good mommy discernment comes in handy. There’s a fine line between a child who needs some space and one who is just being lazy, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. 🙂 The point is, you want

There’s a fine line between a child who needs some space and one who is just being lazy, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. 🙂 The point is, you want

The point is, you want learning to be a positive experience because life involves learning, even after school is out. Reading is basic because most of what we learn comes, at least in part, from reading up on a subject.

We want learning to be a positive experience because life involves learning. Click To Tweet

The Setting for Reading Instruction

For phonics instruction, we rarely sat at the table or a desk, especially at the start. Actually, we sat at a cozy little cubby in our stairwell, often snuggled under a blanket for good effect, while we worked on learning the basics.

Part of the reason for this was the fact that, with four other children in the household, and the associated distractions, there needed to be a peaceful little area for us to concentrate. For some children, this is more important than for others. Our stairwell has double French doors, which block out the noise of the rest of the main floor pretty well.

Find some place that is cozy, quiet (or quieter), with good lighting in your house. We tend to treat our stairwell as a reading nook. When a child still wants some peace and quiet to study, they are usually found on that little love seat I pulled out of the trash and recovered years ago. This corner has many happy memories associated with it even today, long after all five kids have graduated from high school.

Occupying Siblings During Phonics Instruction

Usually, with the younger children, much training, correction, and a touch of bribery and distraction went into not be disturbed while working with the new reader.

My older children, having been through the process with me already, were pretty clear about how annoying it is to be disturbed while trying to learn to read, and how nice it is when you have mom all to yourself in peace for that time. Thus, the older ones were more respectful of reading time with the younger ones.

Younger children could be distracted with a video, an activity, an audio book, or naptime. Older children could be given clear instructions for another project or activity and asked to work on it, and try to figure it out, with the assurance that I’d help them when I was done if they hit a road block. Usually, there was a reward of more time being read to, or some other special thing if they allowed us to complete our task in peace.

The Timing of Our Learning to Read Time

When it was mostly younger children needing to not disturb us, I had to be careful about what time of day I worked on reading. It couldn’t be when everyone was hungry and grouchy, right before lunch. It couldn’t be the middle of the morning, or the baby would be crabby.

Knowing my family, and you knowing yours, and what is going on right now, you know when everyone is most at peace and contented. That’s your time.

It goes without saying that the phone was unplugged or ignored at this time too.

More on Reading at Thoughts and Designs

I have other posts about reading with children, as well as some designs and tools for readers on this site, which you can find here.

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