A couple of days ago, I shared a special moment on The Unplugged Family Facebook page.
My nine-year-old daughter had just finished reading through The Boxcar Children for the first time and was starting into the second book in the series. It was mid-morning and our home was peacefully quiet with children all engaged in their own activities. Audrey unfolded her legs and rose from the couch with a satisfied sigh.
“Oh, Mama… I just couldn’t LIVE without reading,” her voice was whimsical and sing-song.
I smiled and she continued,
“Reading is just delicious.”
Oh, my heart. Those four words will stay emblazoned in my soul forever.
I love her use of words – and I couldn’t agree more. Reading IS delicious and don’t we DEVOUR books? So why not delicious reading?
It took a solid 9 and a half years of nurturing a love of books for a statement like that to bubble up out of her little heart. And it is music to my ears to hear my children tell me they LOVE to read. It is a sweet reward after many years of investment and perseverance. Isn’t it?
And, friends, I don’t believe a true pleasure in reading just ‘happens’. I mean, maybe for the occasional child, but more often than not…
a genuine love of reading is like a well cared for garden.
It takes a ton of work. We must create the right environment for that garden to grow, we must till the soil of the heart and mind, we must plant the right seeds, nurture the seeds – then the plants, and continue to water that garden and weed that garden and nurture that garden for as long as it takes.
And sometimes that can mean there will be many years before we see the ‘fruits’ of our labor.
Yep. It takes good old fashioned TIME to grow passionate readers.
After ‘teaching’ three children to read (so to speak), there is one MAJOR truth that I feel every Mom, homeschooler or not, should know. I mean, there are many (which I plan to cover in this new series on reading!) but there is one BIGGIE.
It isn’t really about whether our child CAN read.
It is much more about whether our child WANTS to read.
Why aren’t we more concerned about whether a child WANTS to read?
No matter what stage in the journey our children are at, the primary goal needs to be nurturing a LOVE of reading.
I know, right? But, seriously… forget about their age.
We are not slaves to a system.
Five Simple Steps for Really Teaching our Children to (love to) Read:
1. Start with REST.
Alright, here I go again. Have you read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet? Yes? Then you know exactly what I mean when I say ‘Start with REST’. No, you haven’t read it?! What are you waiting for, Mama? And… let me explain this idea of starting with rest the best I can in a couple sentences –
This philosophy of Teaching from Rest is all about teaching from the perspective of resting wholly and entirely on the Lord’s leading and Christ’s faithfulness. We are not in control of how or when our children truly learn anything. We are simply called to be faithful in the calling God has placed on our lives to raise up our children in the best way we can according to His will and word and by His leading and grace.
Teaching to read from a state of rest means letting go. It means trusting the Lord and trusting the process. It means bringing our best, being obedient and faithful, teaching with love, respect, joy, and peace – and then trusting the plan God has for our children and ourselves. Teaching from Rest means we get to be at peace with the journey. It is a truly lovely place to start any subject.
2. Give them a reason to WANT to read.
So, now that you’ve entered into a state of peaceful teaching and trust in God’s timing and leading, you need to work hard at laying a good literary foundation. Your child should learn at an early age what a read-aloud culture looks like. This means, reading is established as a part of normal life – just as common as eating or sleeping. We read because we breathe.
3. Do not push your child to learn to read. Choose to ignore cultural pressures.
While you are (hopefully) doing as much nurturing a love of reading as possible – don’t rush your child. Just because they are 5 or 6 or whatever age you think they SHOULD learn to read doesn’t mean they will learn to read at that age. (Trust me, I know this!) And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t even be beneficial for them to learn quite yet. Maybe the soil of their heart just isn’t quite ready.
I believe one of THE BIGGEST mistakes we can do as home schoolers is pressure our children to read. Pushing and prodding and getting frustrated with the reading process is a huge no-no. Not only will it prove very unenjoyable for you and your child, it could potentially completely sabotage the lovely foundation you tried so hard to lay. You know, the one where you established a love of books in your child’s heart?
Also – all that pressure might not prove fruitful anyway. Children will always (always!) learn best when they are ready. I have found this to be so true with our children. I waited until I saw a readiness in my daughter and second son before introducing reading instruction to them. And for my daughter, I did try to go through ‘lessons’ for phonics with her and it just wasn’t clicking. The minute I saw her getting frustrated and discouraged, I let it go. We went back to just enjoying great books together. I didn’t want to push her and lose this beautiful love of literature she had.
Guess what? About a year later, she was ready and picked up reading quite easily and very enjoyably. (This is when we used All About Reading with great success!).
4. When your child IS ready to learn, nurture a love of reading with an atmosphere of warmth, love, peace, patience, kindness, and lots of tea and brownies and more books.
I knew when our children were ready to learn to read because I could see their desire to learn the mechanics of reading greatly increase. They were now understanding and responding well to short, simple lessons. There was no stress in the process because they were fully on board and had a personal desire to learn.
Maybe you’ve heard it said before – WHAT we teach isn’t nearly as important as HOW we teach it. I love this sentiment because it is so, so true with homeschooling. It also completely mimics Charlotte Mason’s philosophy on the Atmosphere of the Home being of utmost importance in teaching our children. Well, the atmosphere of how we teach reading has the same affect.
If we want to establish and preserve a love of reading in our child’s heart and mind, we NEED to teach them to read in a room filled with warmth, love, peace, patience, and kindness. They need to know we are SO on their team and are willing to do whatever it takes and work for however long is needed to help them achieve the ability to read for themselves.
In our home, we snuggle up, have snacks and special treats, giggle and just enjoy that special time of learning to read together. Which leads to the last point…
5. Enjoy the journey.
I can’t believe my eldest will turn 12 this year. I honestly BLINKED and he went from 2 to 12. Let’s just commit to surrendering our fear, anxiety, stress, and feeling of overwhelm and ENJOY the journey with our children. Because, honestly, this journey will not last forever.
It is a miraculous thing, how a child learns. It truly is a holy experience. And we get to be part of it as homeschoolers! Every step of the journey, we are privileged to share with our children, walking hand in hand. And learning to read is one of the most wonderful and powerful things they will learn.
It is HUGELY rewarding to play a leading role in teaching a child to read. I have always been overcome with emotion when each child starts really ‘getting’ it for themselves. But that doesn’t mean rushing the ‘getting it’ part of the journey. It will come in the right timing. I promise. Enjoy this blessed and special journey with your child- breathe in the reality that you will teach her to read but once.
It is a precious time and should be treated as such.
Above all, trust. Trust in the Lord’s divine leading and will for your child. And trust in your child.
The rewards will come, and they are breathtaking.
This is a worth-while link to check out – videos from Sarah’s official Teaching from Rest book club.
Other ‘Learning to Read’ Posts coming soon:
-Nurturing the developing/emerging Reader (ideas, tips, things that have worked for us)
-The Powerful Role Family Read-Alouds play in Nurturing Passionate Readers
-Wow! My child can read! Now what?
-How to Make your Kids Hate Reading (mistakes I’ve made, mistakes I’ve seen)
-Do I really need a fancy Reading Curriculum? (Thoughts and experiences)
-Continuing to Nurture a Love of Reading AFTER they know ‘how’ to Read