How Kathryn Learned to Read

A couple of weeks ago, Jimmie shared a post on how her daughter Sprite learned to read. That gave me warm fuzzy memories of when Kathryn learned to read: how much she loved it and how I loved seeing her light up as she did so! If I hadn’t already wanted to homeschool by that time, that would’ve cinched it for me.

Not long after I read that post, I was going through old photos as part of my ongoing de-cluttering adventure. While doing so, I came across these photos of Kathryn, reading at three years old.

Kat Learns To Read 1

In these photos, she is reading one of our very favorite books to me: Dr. Seuss’s ABC. I wish I had this on video; I can almost hear her little-girl voice, complete with dramatic inflections and giggles. {sigh…}

I could eat.her.up.

reading Dr Suess ABC

Friends and family were amazed at this child reading at the age of three, but I was sure to tell them she had really just memorized it. Which is true — but as I think about it in retrospect, it really was reading, on some level. She knew all her letters and the sounds they made; she could spell her name; and most importantly, she understood that letters put together in certain ways make words which represent certain things or ideas. That’s reading.

Kat Learns To Read 3

I have a photo somewhere of my mom reading at the age of four; no one taught her, but she had such a strong desire, she taught herself. I read at a young age, too. This love of words must be genetic.

Other than passing on a few good genes, what did I do to teach her to read? I read to her. Every. Single. Day. We read a variety of books, but certainly had our favorites. We snuggled while we read, which meant she saw the words as I read them, and eventually learned to recognize many of them. When we sat at the table to eat, I drew letters on paper or napkins to keep her entertained while I snuck bites of oatmeal into her mouth. I did this simply because I was better at drawing letters than animals. This is how she learned her letters. Sometimes I’d write out words, like “Kathryn” or “Mama” or “dog,” and she began to recognize them. At some point, she wanted to draw them, too. I didn’t write down these milestones, because they were simply our everyday life. I wasn’t trying to meet some arbitrary standard set by the government, and I wasn’t trying to create a child genius. I merely did what came naturally and we both enjoyed it.

Kathryn still eats, sleeps, and breathes books. And words. Just like me. We enjoy reading, and I think that’s the key here.

I realize that it doesn’t go this way with all kids. Regardless of age, regardless of what standardized tests say should be accomplished by a certain age, I believe children should learn to enjoy reading — but I don’t pretend to know what works for all learning styles, or for all individual kids! I only know what worked for my child.

In Jimmie’s post, she shared the main factors she believes are key to teaching her child to read: 1) a literate family, 2) reading aloud since birth, and 3) a low-key approach to learning phonics. Commenters shared some good input in the comments section of her post, too, so I’d encourage you to pop over and read those if you haven’t already done so!