Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unschooling Tools::Reading

Ah, reading.  I have so many thoughts swirling in my head about this topic.  The one thing that I know for sure is that it will happen when it's time.  I have never been one to rush my girls (or any child for that matter) into doing something that they simply are not ready for, and this is especially true in the area of reading.  In my former life as a teacher I watched as many a child struggled through reading and all the skills that come with it.  I truly believe that if we allow children to take a much slower pace and really, truly build a solid foundation (taking time to first learn letter names and sounds, and then to put them together to form words, to then, and only then, be followed by the reading of sentences) that we will have stronger, more confident readers as a result. 
It was only recently, as she inches closer to turning six, that Grace has learned the letter names and their sounds.  And even then there are times she still gets tripped up on certain ones (H seems to give her lots of trouble).  She went from struggling to identify capital letters to seemingly overnight being able to identify upper and lower case letters and their sounds.  I think this is in part due to the fact that she got to determine when she was ready to learn these skills and not that it was decided for her when she should learn them.  She has also started to ask how to spell words and is trying to sound words out.  There is a lot of: "Mama, duck is spelled...." and then her saying each letter sound to figure out how the word is spelled.  And there is a little bit of reading happening too.  She surprised me very recently by reading a story called Zac the Rat (found on starfall.com).  To say she was proud of herself is an understatement.  Of course, a card appearing from Gramma and Grandpa only added to the pride and excitement that comes with reading your first story! It is that feeling of pride. Of knowing that she can do something.  Of knowing that she will do it when the time is right and that taking her time is OK  which has given her the confidence she needs in the beginning stages of aquiring this amazing skill.  Grace has always taken her time and I have no doubt that reading will be that way too.  Since she has always been encouraged to take her time, to do things only when she feels she is ready, she has always done whatever she has set her mind to well and with great success. 
And Emma.  Where is she in all this?  She is there, the every present sidekick to Grace, wishing she too was getting ready to turn six and trying her darndest to identify letters and sounds.  We often tell her that "it will happen when it's time" and while her time may occur sooner rather than later it has not arrived as of yet.  She is doing lots of pre-writting.  And lots of letter play.  And lots of drawing.  All essential skills to becoming a great reader.  Both girls have always loved the magnetic letters on our fridge, but Em has a true affinity for them. She can often be found using them to make up new words (words that only she knows).  Or sorting them by color into corresponding bowls.  A game that she came up with all on her own.    
I think the thing to keep in mind is that given the right support and encouragment, and by living in a print rich environment where a love of reading is clearly evident, that children will learn to read "when the time is right". It may not be when they are five.  And it may not be when they are seven.  It may not even be when they are nine.  And that's OK.  The important thing is to give them the time, space and  encouragement they need to learn this essential skill.  And while it may be easier said than done: try not to compare them to anyone else (traditionally schooled, homeschooled or unschooled).  Learning to read is not a race, and really all that matters in the end is that they fall in love with reading.

To help develop that love of reading in our girls here is a list of some of the things that we have used:
Thanks to Stephanie at Ordinary Life Magic for organizing these Unschooling Tools posts!  It has been so great to share what we do and also to read everyone else's posts in this series!  Stephanie's post on reading in her family is simply wonderful. If you need more ideas or encouragement be sure to check it (and the other posts) out. 


  1. Great post Shel! We too are letting Reece take the lead on reading, really on schooling in general. I will admit, it kinda freaks me out, growing up in the school system I am slowly learning to let go of what is "expected" and just follow his lead. Every day it gets a little easier :)

  2. Thanks, Kim! I hear ya girl! I get freaked out on occasion too, but then I take a deep breath, chat with other like minded mamas (especially of those with kids older than the girls) and realize that it's all good! :)