When Hannah turned two this January, she pretty much recognized all of the letters of the alphabet, so I decided to do a daily “circle time” that included learning about the calendar (months, days of the week) and a letter a week. I posted a big red uppercase letter and lowercase letter each week, keeping up the previous week’s letter for review. In this way, Hannah learned the basic phonetic sound for each letter. We finished the alphabet this summer, and Hannah kept asking for more letters, plus started trying to sound things out (she can only do the first two letters or so of a word, and then she guesses, often with hilarious results) so I thought we could slowly move to some new information.
I have a book called The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading wherein the first 26 lessons are a review of the phonetic sounds Hannah already knows, but adding a few new items of information like the distinction between vowels and consonants, and using smaller index card sized letters. Each letter forms the verse of a poem. Hannah has enjoyed this so far, and likes to have me help her say the poem throughout the day. I figure we’ll do 2-3 of those lessons per week, as they are very short, and see how it goes. If we get to a point in the book where it seems she’s no longer getting it, I’ll slow down further or start over. Again, I want to keep her enjoying this. I recently checked out Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and I might integrate that too after I finish reading it.
What I like most about the Ordinary Parent’s book is that the author doesn’t require you to link writing with reading, rather she identifies them as two separate skills. I think often kids are ready to read long before they are ready to write, and certainly I don’t want to hold Hannah back from learning her letters until she can write them well. I figure there is plenty of time for penmanship later.
We read a lot at our house. Books form a very large part of our day, and when you take the time to select and read excellent children’s books, you’ll find they are quite educational on a variety of topics. My criteria for good kids books is that they must have correct grammar (it’s truly appalling how many books out there are written using incorrect English!) and either cover topics in good rhyme or using good vocabulary, be interesting enough that I don’t mind reading them over and over again, and preferably have really excellent illustrations. I’ve gone through tons of lists of recommended books and so I realize that people’s taste in books is in many ways subjective and different families adopt different criteria for what they read. If you’re interested in more information on weeding out great books from twaddle, check out this article.
We have a variety of great ABC books, read about 15 other children’s books a day (at least), and we also read from books of nursery rhymes (rhyming is an important component of reading readiness apparently, plus nursery rhymes are good for cultural literacy), a book of nursery tales, books of poetry like A.A. Milne’s “When We Were Very Young,” and so forth. We also generally have a chapter book going – this fall I think we’re going to read “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Farm” or maybe “The Wheel on the School.” Finally, I found a great book of short retellings of Shakespeare plays called “Twenty Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare” by Edith Nesbit, and we often read one of those at some point during the day – Hannah listens avidly and likes the pictures.
Based on a suggestion I found in “Teaching a Young Child to Read” I’ve started letting Hannah dictate emails to various relatives (if you want in on that action, send her an email and she will write back!), and we’re also going to start keeping a journal together of things we do, and I’m going to write down some of her stories as she tells them to me. I’ll also be using some word games and rhyming games I found in “Phonemic Awareness Activities” every now and then.
After some serious thought on foreign languages we’re doing some really basic exposure to French right now. We have a Brainy Baby French DVD out from the library that covers basic vocabulary and simple phrases with a background of classical music that the kids can watch a few times a week, and I have a set of Learnables French tapes from when I was homeschooled that they listen to while looking at the accompanying picture book. My idea is not to really teach the language in its entirety at this point, but rather just start exposing them to it. Eventually French is probably something we’ll do in a co-op. I do plan to add Latin starting when Hannah is five or so, probably using the Prima Latina program, because my sister-in-law did that with her boys for kindergarten with good results.
In case you missed the introduction to this series, you can read it here.