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"What is required for a child to be eager to learn is not knowledge about reading's practical usefulness, but a fervent belief that being able to read will open to him a world of wonderful experiences..."

Bruno Bettelheim/Karen Zelan."

This information was originally compiled for another web page, and written for parents of public school students. The intent is not to describe any approach to teaching reading, but simply to offer a general outline of some of the skills that are often learned in early grades. There is nothing sacred about the suggestions offered here. It is merely intended to give a broad overview of how reading development often occurs.

Our method of teaching our children to read has been a combination of different approaches. We try to provide a language-rich environment, in which the kids are talked to and encouraged to express ideas, starting in infancy. We read to them often, trying to choose from among the best age-appropriate children's literature available. Literary choices for small children need not be limited to very simple books. They can benefit from a wide range of literary choices, provided they enjoy the books. The kids are encouraged to handle and explore books from an early age: pulling books off the shelves, turning pages, playing with the books, basically anything other than damaging them or using them as projectiles. We take a traditional approach, starting when the children seem ready - teaching letters first, then a combination of basic phonics and sight words. Nothing unique or mysterious here :-).


Most experts do not believe that learning to read in Kindergarten is essential. They feel that many children are ready to learn around age six, but kids who learn at 7 or 8 are at no disadvantage. Some state that late Kindergarten is the optimal time for a child to begin learning to read independently. Others tout the benefits of waiting until age 7 or 8, or even later. Some parents focus on building literacy skills in Kindergarten or first grade, others believe in delaying academics.

Whichever philosophy you follow: the most important part of any Kindergarten language curriculum is generally READING READINESS, which begins in the preschool years and is refined in Kindergarten.

Reading Readiness refers to various skills which lay the foundation for reading. These are things you can begin teaching your child during the preschool years, to help him be ready for Kindergarten. Reading readiness includes the following:
  • Developing a basic sense of direction about reading: words and sentences are read from left to right; pages are read from top to bottom.
  • Developing eye-hand coordination through drawing, manipulating objects, and other fine-motor activities, needed for reading and writing.
  • Learning to identify the letters of the alphabet Many children learn to identify capital letters first, then lower-case letters. Alphabet books, singing the Alphabet Song, puzzles and toys, games and flash cards, and educational shows such as Sesame Street can help your child learn the alphabet.
  • Understanding that words are comprised of letters, and sentences of words. This skill is best taught by faithfully reading to your child. Sometimes run your finger under the words as you read. This helps your child understand these basic concepts, and will eventually reinforce word recognition.
  • Recognizing rhyming words is a cornerstone of reading readiness. The best thing you can do is inundate your child with nursery rhymes, songs, and rhyming stories, beginning at birth!
  • Visual Discrimination: identifying colors and shapes; being able to match and sort objects by color, shape and size.
  • Auditory Discrimination: Discriminating initial sounds of words. As your child learns to identify her letters, you can begin gently coaching her on recognizing constant sounds. Eventually, she can hear the "b" sound in word "boy" and the "k" sound in "kangaroo." These basic phonics skills will eventually help her read and write fluently.
  • Discriminating ending sounds of words such as the "b" at the end of "rub" and the "k" in "think."
  • Discriminating letter sounds. After learning to discriminate sounds, she learns that the beginning LETTER in "boy" is "b" and the last letter in "think" is "k."
  • Recognizing short vowel sounds in short, simple words.

Kindergarten Reading Skills

What Your Child May Be Learning:
  • strengthening her speaking and listening skills
  • identifying and naming letters
  • learning letter sounds
  • understanding phonemes (the basic sounds that comprise words)
  • comparing words (understanding which words rhyme (cap, map)
    and which begin with the same letter (cap, cat)
  • beginning to write letters
  • possibly -some word recognition
What Your Child May be Doing in Homeschool:
  • hearing and reciting poems, rhymes, and songs
  • learning the alphabet
  • hearing simple, classic stories, such as Aesop's fables
    or simple myths (the tale of King Midas)
  • practicing writing the alphabet
  • working on recognizing familar patterns in words (cap/map)
    such as by comparing rhyming words
  • word play (knock-knock jokes, riddles, tongue twisters)
    For the master of word play, check out some Dr. Seuss books.

First Grade Reading Skills

What Your Child May Be Learning:
  • easily identifying all letters of the alphabet
  • associating sounds with letters
  • printing upper- and lower-case letters.
  • beginning to write by spelling words phonetically
    (e.g. "bot" for "boat")
  • word recognition
What Your Child May be Doing in Homeschool:
  • the same things he did in Kindergarden, plus
  • plenty of reading and writing practice
  • learning some classic folk tales

Second Grade Reading Skills
What Your Child May Be Learning:
  • increasing reading skills
  • becoming able to sound out words phonetically
  • beginning to read simple books independently
  • learning to identify the main idea in a story,
    predict outcomes, and draw conclusions.
  • learning simple grammar concepts:
    recognizing nouns and verbs and understanding
    that a sentence is comprised of these.
  • recognizing syllables
  • understanding prefixes and suffixes (prefix, biggest)
  • understanding possessives (Laura's book)
  • understanding synonyms (words with like meaning)
  • understanding antonyms (words with opposite meaning)
  • understanding multiple meanings of words.
  • understanding contractions (cannot ---> can't)
  • recognizing common abbreviations
  • alphabetizing
What Your Child May be Doing in Homeschool:
  • the same things as before, plus
  • working on basic grammar
  • beginning some independent reading
  • learning about folk tales, tall tales,
    comedy and limericks.

Stephanie Marshall Ward

This page was last updated on 4/23/04. All materials are copyright of the author.

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