I love to read. I always have. When I had kids, I couldn’t wait to snuggle up for hours and share my favorite stories with them. But I was worried. I’d often heard, “Boys just don’t like reading.” I had seen the evidence of that over and over in the boys and men I met, but I could not imagine not sharing that part of my world with my children. I now have 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6 and 18 months) that, so far (but have not always), love to read.
Disclaimer. I believe that at some point reading “clicks.” There are gifted readers who start reading at 3 and gifted readers who start reading at 7. Every child takes reading at his or her own speed. My goal was always to have my children love to read and then learn to read. My motivation for teaching them to read was that the sooner they felt confident reading, they would be able to enjoy books on their own. These are some of the tools I used to teach my kids to both love reading and learn to read.
Start young. I started reading to my babies from the moment they could look at a book. My oldest hated to sit still, so our reading moments lasted only a minute or two. My 4th baby will let me read to him for hours, but I always tried with all of them to do it as often as possible.
Go at their pace. Babies won’t sit still for long sentences, but they will engage as you point to objects in pictures and say the names of them. Animal books are always a favorite of the under 18 months crowd. I rarely read the story, just point to the animals and make their noises. This also works for other things they are familiar with like: baby, eat, play, ball, night night, etc. This allowed me to read just about any picture book we owned to them and I often made up my own story or dialogue. We also loved books that went to songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider or The Wheels on the Bus. My oldest hated sitting still, so I would speed read to him and finish a book in just a few seconds by pointing to pictures and making sounds. It was strange but it worked.
Fill in the blank. I love finding books my kids can predict and participate in. From the time they learn to talk, I will start leaving out words and wait for them to fill them in. This works best with the word at the end of a sentence. I’m as Quick as a Cricket or Good Night Moon are some of the best for this, but you can do it with any book they really love. As they get older and more familiar with the book, they can often recite most of it. It’s a fun game that keeps them engaged in reading and allows them to open a book and “read” independently very early on. I try in every way to make them feel comfortable with books.
One thing that has always worked well for us is spelling first. After my boys know the sounds of each letter we use them to spell. In the car or when trying to pass time, I’ll give my kids words to spell. In the beginning, I’ll help them sound them out, letter by letter (meaning I’ll say the sound and they the letter), but it’s not long before they can do it on their own. I also like using spelling to teach new concepts like the silent “e” or the “y” that sounds like an “i.” I will give them bunches of words that have that same strange rule and they will spell them all for me as they understand the pattern. We actually spell a lot before we really read.
Spell in the bath.
We used foam bath letters a bunch too. I’d suggest buying at least 2 sets, so you have 2 of each letter. We spent a lot of bathtub time spelling words on the wall. I love places where my kids enjoy (or have to) chat with me. This felt like a game to them too, so they were happy to play “bath spelling” which often leads to “bath reading.” When they were very comfortable with spelling, I would place small words on the bathtub wall and they would read.
Find beginning books.