Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Raising Readers: How my 5-year-old learned to read

As of last weekend, I now have a five-year-old. The things people tell you during the sleepless nights and endless feedings of the infant stage is true: the time really does fly by. Abby is getting more and more independent every day, and during the last school year her academic skills have taken off like a fighter jet from a naval ship.

In the last year, Abby has gone from asking questions like "how do you spell ___?" and wanting to watch movies all the time, to holding her pencil correctly as she sounds out and writes descriptions of the pictures she's drawn, and asking for her Start to Read pack of books by her bed at night so she can read them when she wakes up in the morning.

Some of it is probably her genes (*puffs up proudly, and gives credit to Rocky too*), some of it is probably her amazing preschool teacher. But there are probably also some things Rocky and I have done to help her along.

Always answer their questions.
Whether it's "what does 'tree' start with?" or "what rhymes with 'sad'?" or "what is a 'country'?", kids this age are sponges! Every day holds opportunity for them to learn something new. The things about life that we take for granted have to be learned at some point, and you are your child's best teacher.

Describing the pictures to her ponies. 

Take it slow.
I was the child who was writing and illustrating stories at age 4-5. But I had to force myself to not push Abby along the same path, just because I thought she needed to. It's not a race. Am I proud of her abilities now? Absolutely. But if those skills hadn't come along for another year or two I would need to be okay with that (though it would be SO difficult for me...). I also try currently to not brag about her reading to many people, especially not to those with kids the same age, because I know how stressful "mom guilt" and the comparison game can be. All  of my mom friends know she can read -- but I don't need to be posting daily Facebook updates about it.

One of the first books she tried to read on her own.
And it took many tries and many days and lots of help.

Don't push them. 
Learning to read should not be a chore. Even the kids who take to it quickly will have days where they just don't want to try (believe me, we've had many!). It's okay to take the story and read it to them yourself, or set it aside for them to try again another day. But as soon as we start forcing them to finish the book, or the page, or whatever, they will backlash and suddenly reading is no longer fun. They'll be forced to read for school soon enough; let them read at home at their own pace.

Yes she fell asleep like this. 

Let them see you reading.
I'm one of those strange people who loves both her Kindle and paper books. I try to balance my reading time between the two. Both of my girls know the Kindle is "a book", I've shown them the words on the screen. If they're playing nicely and don't need me for a few minutes, I'll curl up in a chair near them and read for a little bit. Hopefully as they see me relaxing like that it will encourage them to do the same.

Playing "storytime" at 3 years old
Keep reading aloud.
I mentioned in my last post about Ellie that a study a few years ago concluded reading aloud to children has been called the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading -- and I firmly believe that was the case with Abby. However, it would be easy for me to stop reading to Abby over the next few years as she starts to read more and more on her own, and especially once her younger sister is reading too and they're both out of the picture book stage. Instead I'm keeping my eyes open at garage sales -- I've already collected boxed sets of Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia.

What other tips do you have for helping your children learn to read?


  1. How have I not found you before now! I love my books! And I agree 100% with all the tips you have here. I have three little ones, and I want them to love reading, and with two boys it's a challenge! But we've gone to the library every week for years and along with the list you have above they are turning in to little book worms too. It's amazing what interests them, and books can tap into their imaginations in ways I simply can't.

    I found this through the kid lit link up.

    I'd love for you to join my weekly link up, this post would be perfect! We share posts on reading, books and so much more. It opens every Thursday, I hope you can stop by.



    1. Well thanks Marissa! It's so encouraging when our little ones finally start loving books as much as we do, isn't it?? I'll check out your linkup, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great advice, thanks for sharing, Carrie! I think the pressure piece is so important - both in not pressuring your child and in not laying pressure on other parents. Show don't tell how important reading can be! Thanks for linking up with #KidLitBlogHop!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Katie! I know the pressure piece will be difficult as my younger daughter reaches this stage too -- I don't want to always compare her to Abby and push her to be like her sister.