Occasionally, someone says something about our family having all girls as if that means we basically have four copies of the same child.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
All four of our girls have wildly different personalities, and maybe none so different as Ella and Ani.
Learning to read has been no exception.
I wrote a whole post here about teaching Ella to read and the resources we’d used, and I mentioned at the end of that post that I’d probably have to write an entirely new post about Ani because I assumed she’d need different things to learn to read.
And that has turned out to be true.
More than two years ago, I started working Ani to help her learn to read. This is that new post about the tools and strategies that have helped Ani learn to read.
The Tools I’ve Used to Help My Child Learn to Read
One thing I need to mention about Ani is that while she’s willing to sit down and practice reading with me, she had no desire to read or practice reading independently, so I’ve needed more tools to help her get in the practice she needs to learn to read.
I LOVE this book – it just make sense for the way my brain works and I find it very easy to start working through it with my children (I’ve never used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, so I have no insight into that method). We started working through this when Ani was about 4.5 and she quickly picked up the concepts of vowels and blending and could start reading simple words.
For me, this is the backbone I need to understand the rules behind learning to read English, since it’s been so long since I learned to read myself and I never think about the mechanics when I read.
While it gave Ani the foundation she needed, she wasn’t thrilled about continuing to work on it day after day once she knew the basics, which brings me to the next tool we’ve used.
4 Weeks to Read
This company approached me last fall about working together and since I knew I needed something to help me take Ani to the next level of reading, this felt like the perfect fit. It starts at the very beginning with letters and the sounds they make, but since Ani already knew all those, we jumped right into the books and have been using them since then.
With our move, it was hard to get into a good routine, but in January, we finally found a good slice of time when we could practice each evening and since then we’ve used them almost daily. Each book introduces a new phonics concept and then has a full-color illustrated story. We read together for 5-10 minutes each night and we also do either one book or half of a book, depending on how interested she is. Since we’ve been consistent about it, I’ve seen HUGE strides in her reading.
My only complaint about them is that I wish there was a parent guide or something to walk you through the books. There is one for teaching the letters, but once you get to the books, you’re on your own to explain things like “when two letters go walking, the first one says its name, and the second one is silent.” That’s why I like having Phonics Pathways in addition this one because it helps me understand the rules and teach them correctly.
If you buy your own set, you can use the code Janssen10 for 10% off.
Dash into Reading
As Ani gained confidence with the 4 Weeks to Read books, I remembered that Ella had really increased her abilities by practicing with BOB books on her own. Ani had never had ANY interest in reading on her own (she didn’t even like it if we were reading picture books together and I’d ask her to read a word in the book. She would practice during our reading time together in the evenings and at school with her teacher, but other than that, she was NOT interested).
Last month, I pulled out a set of early reader books we had and I told her they were for her and she could read them on her own. She flatly refused and I didn’t push it, but 5 minutes later, she asked if she could read them downstairs and when I told her that was fine, she plopped herself on the couch and read 7 of them on her own before going to school. That night, she read the other 5. It kind of blew my mind.
Those books were very simple (three-letter words mostly), and aren’t for sale anymore, so I told her I’d get her some more books of her own.
I’d planned to get the BOB book sets from my in-laws’ house, but Ani told me she’d already looked through them and she thought they were weird, so instead I got a set of the Dash into Reading books (which, like 4 Weeks to Read, is a comprehensive reading program) and told her she could read those.
There are 10 books in this set and they are beautifully illustrated (they have a classic feel instead of the cartoony feel of 4 Weeks to Read), and they also start at the beginning, so they were perfect for her to practice with on her own.
They don’t go as far as the 4 Weeks to Read books, so by the time we got them, she could independently read them all.
I like these books because they have the parent guide in the front of each book explaining exactly what you’re teaching and how to introduce it, and I’m excited to use them with Star as she starts learning to read in the next year.
You can use my code JANSSENBRADSHAW for 15% off your order.
We’ve hit the point where Ani knows pretty much all the fundamentals of reading, now she just needs the practice and confidence to be a completely fluent reader (I’m really feeling the pressure now because she’ll be entering the Chinese immersion program in the fall and so it feels urgent to me that she be a strong reader before she starts trying to learn a NEW language).
What I needed was more tools to help her WANT to practice. I signed up for a free trial of the Homer app (you can get a free trial here too), and it has been a great extra tool.
We don’t do much screen time in our family, so playing sight-word games and other reading games has been very encouraging for her. I let her play for 10-15 minutes a few days a week and it’s been the extra push she needs.
If you’ve used other tools to help your child learn to read, I’d love to hear about them, since I still have two more children to teach to read!
We’ve used starfall.com for all three of our kids who have learned to read. It’s absolutely free and phonics based. It has a lesson, practice, and an interactive story to go with each principle. My kids think it’s such a treat to sit down at the computer for alone time with mom, and the stories are funny. The animation is a little odd, but my kids don’t care! They’ve all gained a solid foundation for us to move on to basic phonics easy readers.
They have a free app, but I’ve never used it, so I don’t know what content it has.
Ani sounds identical to my kindergartener. He has the basics but refuses to do any more than the minimum I require nightly. I did ask the librarian one day for some more fun books and she pointed out these sets of books that they have in a folder that are like Bob books in simplicity (I own the first 3 sets of Bob books) but are with contemporary stories. So we used a set of Berenstein bears and are now doing a ninja turtle set. Not life changing but a little more fun than typical Bob books.
Thank you for sharing! Did you decide to teach Ani to read before she started school, or was this in addition to what she was getting in school? Always curious about the “best” age (if there is one) to start reading instruction.
Janssen Bradshaw says
We started when she was about 4.5 but I wasn’t very consistent about it until this past year when she started kindergarten.
Thanks for all the ideas!
We’ve used All About Reading, which isn’t cheap, but is just wonderful. It is so organized about teaching all the rules and sounds that I feel like it was worth it just so I knew how to explain reading (or spelling) rules to the kids. I didn’t know anything about open and closed syllables, for example, and I couldn’t have listed every sound each vowel can make (beyond long and short). Plus it’s fun, and the readers are satisfying to the kids because they’re hardcover books of short stories, so they seem like “real” books. It’s definitely a higher maintenance curriculum, but we homeschool right now, so I’m the only reading instruction they’re going to get!
Our library has a set of early readers by Flyleaf Publishing. We’ve had good luck with those because they have so many on different levels and many of the later ones don’t feel as much like practice books – important for my youngest who wants to feel like his siblings.
Every kid really is different! My oldest tends to be more easygoing & he approached learning to read intuitively, happy to sound out & guess based on context in stories & pictures. His willingness has made him an avid reader, but sometimes I wonder if his comprehension is lacking because of his willingness to skip over or guess at unfamiliar words. My second is so much more methodical. She hates to read aloud & gets annoyed by sight words & exceptions to rules. We are progressing much more slowly, but I find her accuracy & comprehension better in comparison. She hasn’t gravitated to independent reading or attempts at writing yet, but I hope with time and patience we’ll have another avid reader. (Books are so much easier to clean than endless art supplies & Legos!)
This is so helpful! My oldest is getting to the end of his kindergarten year and while we practice his school sight words almost every weeknight, I haven’t done much with him beyond that (and what he’s getting at school) and having him read sight words when we read picture books. Definitely going to look into some of these, especially to use over the summer! I don’t want him to lose all his progress!
I don’t think the links to dash into reading are working. They take me to an unrelated page. Can you help me find the link for the free book and the discount on further books? Thanks!
I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for all 4 of my kids. I changed a few things (didn’t do the rhyming sections and changed the sound of the word a to the long a sound). It wasn’t easy (especially since I taught them around age 3 or 4 depending on the kid) and took a lot of patience; but it worked well for all of them. To be successful, you must be consistent. My youngest used the Teach Your Monster to Read on her computer too. My youngest also improved while doing The Good and the Beautiful level K and 1 curriculum, which includes many great readers. You can purchase the readers separately.