Tips and Strategies
There is no single sequence for teaching a child to read using a computer.
The Early Reader programs are so flexible, there's a lot of room for individual
methods. What I'll try to do is give you ideas and point out the ones I
believe to be important.
There is a lot to be gained from listening to the "experts" - not
about what can't be done, but about how to go about doing what can. For
one thing, I believe that a child is more likely to love reading if he sees his
parents reading a lot. I, myself, am a science fiction addict. If
not prodded to consciousness, I can spend a whole day (until 3:00 in the morning
the next day, sometimes) with a good book. And, of course, I hate myself
in the morning. But as long as I don't neglect them, I think it's good for
the kids to see me buried in a book. There must be something interesting
in there if Mom is that wrapped up in it. Right?
It's very good to read to your child. From babyhood, I read to Andrea
whenever I could spare the time. (Two other kids and a typing business,
remember?) After both of the big kids were in school, Andrea and I were
all alone part of the time, and we spent some of that time reading. She
would sit in my lap with a favorite book, and look at the pictures while I read.
There was one book, Baby Farm Animals, which she picked about every other time.
Before she could read, she had memorized the first few pages of the book (about
50 words per page) just from me reading to her. I always started from the
beginning, and pretty soon she was "reading" - saying the words with
me as I read. She wasn't really reading, though - I checked her out on
individual words and she couldn't tell me what "to" or "in"
were until just before her third birthday. I think a favorite book should
be encouraged. No matter how boring it is for you to read it the twentieth
time, the child must be getting something out of it or he wouldn't be
After Andrea started "reading" - saying the words with me - Baby Farm
Animals became a lot less boring to me. It was so exciting to have a
two-year-old memorizing a story, and seeing how far she could get this time.
After your child has learned several words on the computer, start him on real
books. The children's section of your library is the logical place to
start. At first, look for books with only a few words per page, and lots
of pictures. Glance through the book yourself before you check it out.
Nearly all books for three year olds are meant to be read to the child, not for
the child to read himself. They will have words like "princess"
and names like "Gwendolyn". Those are the wrong kinds of books
for your early reader. Look for books with large type, and small, easy
words. If there are only a few words in the book that your child doesn't
already know, he will have a fighting chance to read it clear through by
himself. In searching our own public library, I had the best luck with
books about animals.
Another excellent source of books for your child is a friendly first-grade
teacher. Most teachers really are interested in education (they're
certainly not in it for the money!), and a three year old who can read seems to
be quite fascinating. Especially if you have an older child in school, you
might try to borrow the first set of readers, or an old set. These books,
although they probably don't have the large type that is best, are designed so
that only a few new words are introduced per story. Encourage your child
to read the same story three or four times, to fix the new words in his mind.
The way we did it was to read, say, story 1, story 1, story 2, story 1, story 2,
story 3, story 2, story 3, etc. Don't be dictatorial about it, but kids
are sometimes so anxious to read the next one that they miss out on some of the
good stuff in the current one. It's O.K. to restrict your child from
reading number 4 until he has learned all the words in number 2. That will
not hurt your reverse psychology, because although the unwanted task is reading
(number 2), the reward is also reading (number 4).
It's great fun to show off your kid's new skills to the lady next door. I
know, I went through the same joyous pride that you feel (or will soon feel).
It's alright to let Mrs. Smith watch Johnny read, as long as Johnny doesn't
object. If he gets shy and doesn't want to perform on cue, don't try to
force him. Again, that would make reading something you want him to do,
not something he wants to do. It's O.K. to ask, but don't plead.
There will be enough times when Mrs. Smith walks in and catches Johnny reading
by "accident" that she won't think you're a liar when you brag about
One of the nicest results of teaching your three- or four-year-old to read will
be an increase in peace and quiet for you. When I took Andrea to school
concerts (Frank played trumpet in the band), I didn't have a wriggly, loud
little girl to contend with. I simply brought along two pencils and a pad
of paper. We would have conversations on paper. At first, I would
write a question and she would answer "yes" or "no".
As her spelling got better, her answers got longer. She was bright enough,
too, to take some of her spellings from the questions. For instance,
"Do you like red grapes or green grapes better?" She could say
"I like green grapes better." All the words for the answer are
right there in the question.
Another benefit of a kidlet who can read is a reduction in boredom. In the
winter, when they couldn't go outside as much, my older kids used to have a
daily refrain, "I'm bored!" Because they couldn't read, I
couldn't tell them, "Why don't we read a book?" I had to resort
to coloring books, puzzles, and the like. With a kid who can read, you can
still resort to puzzles, but you have one more item on your list - "Do you
want to read to me?"
I believe in lap-sitting. The warmest, friendliest place in the world for
a small child is Mom's or Dad's lap. With the child in your lap, you can
help hold up a book that is too floppy for small hands. You can see the
word he's pointing to and help him pronounce it. There's no temptation to
check the laundry and stir the stew or to do all the other things that need
doing, while kidding yourself that the child doesn't notice that you're not
paying attention. Lap-sitting almost guarantees a quality "together
time" for you and your child. It helps build love and trust, and you
can't have too much of either.