Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Homemade ABC Books

I can’t claim credit for this idea!  When I quit teaching at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, the parents in my classroom presented me with this ABC book they had made with my students.  Now, it’s one of Jenna’s favorite books.  She gets a little confused by my picture in it, because back then I didn’t have any bangs. 

This idea would have even more instructional value if I updated the book with pictures of things and people Jenna recognized more.  As it is though, it’s still a very special book.

Creating a Writing Corner

As a teacher, one of my constant questions for parents during parent-teacher conference was “Have you set up a writing corner for your child?”

A writing corner is a special place in your home where your child has all of the supplies they need to write stories, draw pictures, and do important “work”.

This doesn’t need to cost any money! Just search through your home for things you already have on hand.

Writing Corner Supplies

  • blank paper
  • lined paper
  • a journal or diary
  • notebooks
  • pens
  • pencils
  • a dictionary
  • a stapler
  • crayons
  • markers
  • old mugs or cups to organize things
  • a mini trashcan
  • cut-out cereal boxes to store papers

Glenn Doman and Magical Thinking

(Don’t buy this!)

When Bruce was one and a half I came across Glenn Doman’s How to Teach Your Baby to Read in a used bookstore.  I bought it, and quickly read it cover to cover.  His idea that you could use giant flashcards to teach small babies to read had me hooked, and I was eager to see if this method worked.

I made the flashcards and gave it a good three months, about when Bruce was 18-21 months.  At the same time, I was also teaching him his ABCs and sounds using the videos “ABCs and Such” and some good old fashioned play-time with ABC blocks.  Maybe this messed up the Glenn Doman Gentle Revolution method, so it didn’t work.  I don’t know.  Doman does NOT want you to teach children their letters or sounds.  He just wants you to concentrate on flashcards, and reading books to children.

After a while, I honestly gave up on the flashcards.  It just didn’t seem to be working.  But boy did I want it to!  So when Jenna was born, I shelled out the $70 to buy the “Teach Your Baby to Read” video, also from Glenn Doman.  That was a waste of money, because it was basically a lecture of Glenn Doman’s daughter telling you the exact same things as was in the book.  What bugged me was that they never showed any evidence.  They said that there were babies who could read, but they never showed them.

So, did the Gentle Revolution method work for Bruce?  No, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a strong reader by age four.   A combination of phonics and whole language instruction were what did it.

That being said, I still think that Glenn Doman has some interesting ideas and theories, the main being that there is a window of opportunity in young children when it is much easier to teach them how to read or learn a language, than it will be in later life.  This is the same theory Maria Montessori promoted, and boy and I a believer.  But I sure do wish I had saved my money on Glenn Doman propaganda.  I didn’t even tell you about the money I spent on those darn “Teach Your Baby Math” flashcards!

Morning Message Day 1

Today was day one of doing the Morning Message with Jenna.  This is a classic, Whole Language, way teachers deliver early reading instuction, and set the tone for the day.  This idea works well for children just learning to read, but it can also work for kids who are 2nd graders who might still be struggling.  You just vary the content a bit.  It doesn’t have to be a Morning Message.  An Evening Message would work just as well, and could be a fun thing to do as a family at the dinner table.

There are several tricks that make Morning Messages work.  The first is to be patterned and predictable.  Every day is almost the same.  “Morning Message.  Today is ______.  Jenna is going to_____”  This gives children the chance to anticipate what is coming.

Another trick is to over exaggerate while you sound out words aloud while you write the Morning Message.  When you get to words that don’t make sense phonetically, like Wednesday, you make a big deal about that too.  “Wed-nes-day” That doesn’t make any sense!”

You can also do fun things like circle the child’s name, or use special  colors.  Getting the whole family involved in supporting the child, is also a good idea.

 I started doing Morning Message with Bruce when he was about 19 or 20 months.  By two, he was able to read it himself.  We’ll see how things go with his sister!

Do Leap Pads Really Work?

I’m not sure if this is a Leap Pad, or a Little Leap Pad.  We bought it four years ago for Bruce when he was just a baby.  My impression of it has been than it has been moderately useful as an entertainment device, and perhaps was a little bit instructional as well, depending on how you use it.

If you were to send your toddler off to the playroom with this thing, and say “Have fun!”, this would be a total waste.  When you sit down with your child and interact with it together, I think it has merit.

But my guilty secret?  The times when I bring out the Leap Pad the most, are when I’m sick and have a sore throat.  Both my children love to be read to, and when I’m not feeling well that’s tough.  But Jenna is perfectly happy to sit in the lazy boy while I push all of the characters and make them talk.   Or when it’s six am Sunday morning and you haven’t had your coffee yet?  That’s another great time to break this thing out.

Not your typical home library

Today my husband braved the attic and brought down three gigantic boxes of books from when I use to teach third and fourth grade.  It is a huge collection, and varies in level, theme, subject, you name it.  Some of the books Bruce has already read, but there are hundreds more that will (hopefully) keep him busy for a while.

Here’s a big trick teachers know!  Instead of just shelving all of the books like a normal mom would do, I grouped them by theme, author, or series, and put them in neat little boxes.  That way, the collection won’t appear overwhelming to Bruce, and he will better be able to pick out what he wants to read.

Right now we have boxes for Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Sports, Newberry Award Winners, A to Z Mysteries, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Boxcar Children, Beverly Cleary, Star Wars, Magic Treehouse, etc.  You get the idea.  I still need to trek down to Ikea to get more boxes.  At the moment, I stole them from Jenna’s dresser!

If I had been more on the ball, I would have used this box method back when Bruce was three, and just starting out as an independent reader.  I would have made boxes for books about dogs, books about construction vehicles, Sesame Street books,  Bob the Builder books… You get the idea.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but better late than never!

ABC time, twenty minutes a day

Jenna is 19 months now, but a few weeks ago, when she was still just a wee young 18 months, we started ABC time on the tv.  For right now, this means watching a very old fashioned video called  Rusty and Rosie’s ABCs and Such.  We happen to have been given these videos from my Mother-in-law, but you can probably check them out from your local library for free.
Yes, yes, I know tv can be evil!   Please don’t blast me about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that children under two shouldn’t watch television.  It’s not like I’m sitting my toddler in from of “Star Wars the Clone Wars” and then going off into the living room to drink a margarita.  It’s not like that.
What I do, is I sit down with Jenna and watch as much of the video as she has the attention span at this point to get through. At first it was just two or three minutes, but we’ve been building up to about twenty.  Each time a new letter or sound comes on, I make a big deal about.  “Oh, that’s the letter S!  Sssssssssss.”  Sometimes Bruce sits with us, and plays along.
When we first started three weeks ago, Jenna  could recognize and say “O”, said “Bruce” for “B” and “mama” for “M and W”.  Today, she can recognize, say or point out the capital letters: “A, B, C, D, F, M, O, P, Q, S, U, X and Z.”  Pretty sweet!  The only other things we have been doing are reading lots of picture books (about 30-45 minutes a day, but not all at one time), and also reading some basic ABC books.
At this point, I’m going to move Jenna on to video two, “Letter Sound Songs”.  Even though she’s not demonstrating that she knows the whol alphabet, it’s time to move on.  I don’t want her to get bored, and so we’re moving on to lower case letters.
I looked in Bruce’s baby book and I had written that Bruce could say his ABCs by 18 months.  I think he also could identify them too, if I’m remembering right.  It really did just take a couple of weeks with that video.  Of course, every child is different, so it’s okay that Jenna is learning at her own pace.

Once a teacher, always a teacher!

My mom always told me that “Home was for teaching, school was for practice.” This if a funny motto to keep close at heart, considering I became a teacher. I taught K/1, 3/4 and 3rd grade for six years in California. For the past five years I’ve stayed at home to raise my five year old son, Bruce, and 19 month old daughter, Jenna. They are my newest, and most beloved students.

My son Bruce is in Kindergarten and reading third and fourth grade chapter books, on his own in one or two sittings. His independent Guided Reading level is “P/Q”. Some of his favorite books to read by himself are “Harry Potter”, “Geronimo Stilton”, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, and “Wayside School”.

I feel badly that Bruce is only five years old and such a Reader-Beader, when so many of his friends are still trying to learn basic words. Yes, he is gifted, but part of his early reading success is due to the fact that I’m a teacher, and I use to teach kids to read for a living.  It’s really not that hard, and I wish that more parents had the tools to do this.

I’m a firm believer in Maria Montessori’s theory that there is a window of opportunity for children when it is very easy for them to learn to read.  If you wait until your child is 5, it’s going to be a lot more difficult.  I started teaching Bruce at 18 months, and now I’m teaching his Jenna the same way.   

As a teacher, if I could send out one message to the world at large it would be “Teach your kids to read before they enter Kindergarten!”  This blog will show you how, and perhaps teach me if my methods will work on other children as well as on my own.