How I taught my tot to read

I introduced JJ to letter sounds by pointing letters out to him. I never called the letters by name. I always called the letters by their phonetic sound. JJ had letters on his wall that we would point to daily.
We also used the ABC magic app from Preschool University. James was non verbal due to speech regression and the app helped his speech immensely.

Several months before his second birthday I had purchased the Preschool Prep Meet the Phonics- Letter Sounds DVD. JJ watched it a few times but at this point it was redundant because he already knew all those letter sounds.
So we moved onto blending CVC words. We really liked the Bob Books apps. These apps also helped with speech.

For Christmas JJ received Meet the Sight Words 1 DVD. He watched it almost daily. Within a month he was able to select the correct word out of three when asked. I then purchased the Preschool Prep Meet the Sight Word Flash Cards and Game apps. JJ mastered the rest of the sight words by 26 months.

28-30 MONTHS.
At this point in time we didn’t know how much JJ could read because he still had very limited speech. We knew he could sound out CVC words. But I don’t believe he knew what the word was. The only time he really spoke was when he was playing Meet the Sight Word apps. He would read the words said in the app almost flawlessly.
One day I tested him by holding up cards with the sight words on them. He was able to read them all back to me with no hesitation.

I then tired to have James read a few “easy” high frequency readers and phonics readers, including Bob Books. We didn’t make any progress.
So we tried the Preschool Prep sight word readers 1, 2, 3 and everything just clicked! He was reading page after page. He would hesitate on an unfamiliar word and wait for me to fill in the word. Or sometimes he would use context clues.

31 months

33 months

By about 34 months JJ had ventured beyond the Preschool Prep readers. He started devouring a lot of early guided reading books. We were borrowing about 20 of them a week from our library. Not all leveled books are created equally. And levels are not consistent across different publishers. There was a bit of trial and error finding JJ’s reading sweet spot. Not too easy, not too hard.

We read every Biscuit book in our library. Then it was Noodles or Henry and Mudge. JJ chose dog books a lot. When we found a character JJ enjoyed we read every book we could find with that character.
We read the books several times, but not enough times for JJ to memorize a book.
JJ was reading to me at least 30 minutes a day. I continued to read to him for another 30 minutes.

Series of readers we liked.
We Both Read I love this series. On one side of the book the parent reads more elaborate text. The child reads simplified text on the opposite page. James really loved The Tan Van and The Old Blue Hat
Hello Reader, I Can Read, My Very First Reading Series by Usborne and Phonics Readers also by Usborne.

At this point in time JJ was a strictly a sight word reader. Albeit he knows hundreds, possibly thousands of sight words. He was learning words as he read them. And he was reading a lot and learning a lot of words. Phonics instruction was halted because it only caused frustration. During this time James learnt to figure out words by context and chunking. He learnt many suffixes like ing, ed and s.

JJ is now a solid 1st grade reader. He still relies on sight word reading method. But we have reintroduced phonetics instruction. We will start using Reading Bear again. He is able to read unfamiliar CVC words by sounding out. We are now working on more advanced phonics rules.

We still read readers. But we don’t limit ourself to them. JJ enjoys reading a variety of picture books. Check out his current favourites here.

I had noticed about 6 months ago that JJ could read upside down. But it was much to my surprise one day when I learnt that he was able to read words backwards. The librarian had written the word gnirps on the board at storytime and JJ yelled out “Spring!”

Below is JJ reading a 4th grade level book. The Story of Trains. It is extremely challenging for him. But he loves the content, so he wants to read it. We have been slowly working through this books this week.

40 months


3 thoughts on “How I taught my tot to read

  1. Regina says:

    I might have to be more open minded, your story is so sweet. Whole words, sight words, etc. are swear words at my dyslexic house. The damage this reading method being forced on everyone has caused my family in the last two generations is untold. The only sight word my kids ever learn is THE and that takes years. Phonics might be hard, but it WORKS with dyslexic kids, it cures dyslexic kids just ask the 20 people in my family and extended family with the genetics to need it. I guess I just need to learn to be happy for the vast majority of other people who can learn via these other methods and hope if whole words fail for someone they don’t wait to long to try pure simple phonics.

    • korrale says:

      Thank you very much for you respons. I too agree with you. If it is evident that something is not working I hope parents/teachers are willing to try something alternative.

      I learnt to read phonetically. And I have taught young kids (3 years+) to read with a phonics method before. And frankly it was how I planned to teach my son initially. But I could see that it just wasn’t working. I started reading a lot more about whole language. I watched videos and read many stories about reading success with whole words with young children, mostly babies and toddlers. I also read a study where it was stated that phonics was difficult to teach children under the age of 3 because they didn’t have the processing power.
      I now know several kids that CAN decode words under the age of 3, but the majority of precocious readers under 3 learnt with whole language.
      So… I gave it a try. And frankly my son has flourished. He has been able to intuit many phonics rules. And when we are reading I do decode words and explain phonics rules as we go. I have been introducing him to higher level phonics rules that I have never taught him and I am finding that the lessons are swift because he Has already figured it out. We will continue to cover systematic phonics, and we will rely on it heavily within the next few years, especially while working on spelling.
      But if I take this journey again with another child I will teach letter sounds informally, and focus on whole words first then phonics instruction once they are over the age of 3.

  2. […] and momentous task. But it is journey that many parents are willing to take on. I have written this post about how I taught my own toddler to […]

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