Thursday, 8 November 2012

How Tiger learned to read

Several people have asked me about how Tiger learned to read at 5 years old (he is 8 years old now), so I thought I'd share my reply to them here, in case someone else finds it useful:

(1) Create the environment to support reading.
We have tonnes of books at home.  Books surround Tiger since birth, and we read bedtime stories to him every night without fail, so that got him used to the idea that books contain interesting stories about different people, different places, a different time, and different situations.  Tiger also had near-zero screen time from 0-6 years old, because we believe the screens (TV, computers, phones) are major distractions to a child who has more important things to learn, e.g. reading.  Learning to read requires a certain level of mental discipline, at least to concentrate on 'non-moving' objects such as words and illustrations, so it is best not to have the child exposed to screens with constantly moving images before the child has learned to read.

When Tiger was 2-6 years old, we went to our local library twice a week, each time taking out the maxmimum number of books that we could.  All of us have library cards, so we are able to borrow over 50 books each time.  Besides having me read to him, Tiger also listened to audio books of longer stories such as:
- the complete Winnie the Pooh
- the complete Beatrix Potter
- the complete Roald Dahl

Having the audio books gave me some relief from reading to him all of the time, especially when I was cooking meals.  Tiger listened to the same stories over and over again until he could memorise them, so a few really good ones would be sufficient.

(2) Types of books to read aloud to children
Always go for the original, unabridged version.  They are written in the original complex lanugage that are far more interesting than any shorter adaptation.  When the child is used to listening to complex sentences, he/she will automatically understand them without reservation. 

(3) Learning to read
I used a combination of the Montessori preschool language materials and a book called Teach your child to Read in 100 Easy Lesson by Engelman everyday to formally teach Tiger to read.  Both methods use the phonics approach so they are complementary to each other.  Each lesson took about 15-20 minutes.

Once we got to around Lesson 70 of the book, we started to borrow 'Learn to Read' type of books from the library as part of our twice-weekly library visits.  I then incorporated these readers into our daily lesson.  At the end of each lesson, we spent another 5 minutes reading from these reader books.  First, I would read from the book using my finger to trace under each word as Tiger followed with his eyes.  After I had read it once, Tiger would then read it back to me so that I could check his progress and pronounciation.

The important thing is to have easy access to good books at this stage.  All of our books are on open shelves within his reach so he can help himself to them at any time.  The first book he read on his own was The Iron Man by Ted Hughes.  

It wasn't during our lesson time, but one morning he just decided to take the book and lay on the sofa with it.  This book is mostly words with very few pictures, so I was surprised to find him with it two hours later.  When he put the book back, I asked him whether he was reading it and he said yes.  I wasn't sure whether he really was reading by then, so I "tested" him by asking him to narrate the story back to me, which he did successfully.  That was the start of independent reading for him.  Gradually, Tiger took over all the daytime read alouds for himself, but I have not stopped reading bedtime stories to him each night.

This post is linked up to:
1) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #37
2) Homeschool Mother's Journal: November 9, 2012
3) Collage Friday
4) Favourite Resources: November 9, 2012
5) It's a Wrap
6) Weekly Wrap-Up


  1. Such great points - we, too, try to create an environment where books and reading are valued. I like reading aloud the unabridged versions because generally they have such wonderful descriptions that usually get taken out when the book is shortened.

  2. Listening to my children sound out their first words have to be some of the proudest moments in my homeschool journey, for I know that once they learn to read, whole new worlds open up to them. These are great points!

  3. It's always so exciting to hear our children begin to read on their own.

  4. We love books at our house. The library basket is always full.

    Great post!

  5. I always love to hear different ways of how reading is taught and I love the enviroment that you created to help foster a love of reading. Thank you for linking up to my Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop this week!

  6. This is a great illustration of how important it is for parents to create an environment that fosters learning. Thanks for sharing this at Favorite Resources.

  7. Thanks for a great post on how you created an environment of learning to read for your son. I have featured you on HammockTracks.


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