Teaching how to read

October 16, 2015

Definitely, what is it we propose in teaching a child to read? (a) that he shall know at sight, say, some thousand words; (b) That he shall be able to build up new words with the elements of these. Let him learn ten new words a day, and in twenty weeks he will be to some extent able to read, without any question as to the number of letters in a word. For the second, and less important, part of our task, the child must know the sounds of the letters, and acquire power to throw given sounds into new combinations (Home Education, pp. 215, 216).

  1.  Read to your child

Birth-1 Year: Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books

1 Year-3 Years: Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books

3 Years-5 Years: Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books

  1. Encourage your child to want to learn how to read

Include your child in your reading time. If you’re reading something child-friendly, tell them about what you’re reading. Accompany this by pointing to words on the page to help them connect the lines on the page with the sounds that form words.

So Charlotte alternated her reading lessons to focus on sight words one day, word-building the next.

3. Teach your child the alphabet. When your child has developed word awareness, begin breaking down words into individual letters. Although the alphabet song is the most classic means of teaching the alphabet, try getting creative. Explain each of the letters with their name, but don’t worry about trying to incorporate the sounds the letters make yet.

4. Teach lowercase letters first. Capital letters account for only five percent of all letters in writing English. Therefore, pay more attention to teaching the lowercase letters. lowercase letters are far more important in developing reading skills.

  • Try making each of the letters out of play-DOH, playing a toss game (where the child tosses a beanbag/ball onto a specific letter on the floor), or fishing for foam letters in the bathtub. These are all interactive games that encourage development on multiple levels.

Preparation for the Reading Lesson

Choose a good classic children’s poem or other rich reading selection with interesting words. Charlotte Mason gave several good examples. One was the poem “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” so we’ll use that for our description here.
You’ll need three basic manipulatives for the lessons:

Loose letters that your child can use to put together the words he learns,

– A page with your reading selection printed on it,

– The words of your reading selection cut apart, one word per strip of paper.

You’ll also want a chalkboard or white board.

Sight Words

Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don’t follow the rules of phonics.  Because of this, they must be memorized.   However, sight words must be memorized in order for your child to become a fluent reader.

Focus on one or two lines of your poem at a time in order to keep the reading lessons short: 10–15 minutes maximum. Grab the word strips for the first line (“twinkle, twinkle, little star”) and follow these steps.

  1. Show your child a word strip and tell him what that word is. Remember to introduce the words in a different order than they appear in the poem’s line, for example, “star” then “twinkle” then “little.”
  2. Have your child look closely at the word. Discuss what it means, if needed. Then hide it among the other word strips and have your child find it.
  3. Hide the word again and ask your child if he can make the word with his loose letters. If he cannot make the word from memory, write it on the board and let him look at it again while he puts the letters in place. You don’t want him to guess at the spelling; you want him to see the word spelled correctly as much as possible.
  4. Have your child find the word on a printed page—the one containing the poem or prose that you are using for your lessons.
  5. Write the word on the board, creating a list of words he has learned. Each time you add a word, have him read the whole list. Be sure to vary the order of the words as you progress; point to them in different orders for him to read aloud. You don’t want him to just memorize the list in order; you want him to recognize each word as he would the familiar face of a friend.
  6. Repeat with the other words in the line of the poem or until the lesson reaches 10 or 15 minutes long.
  7. Once he has learned all the words, have him read aloud the printed line of the poem on the sheet of paper. You can also call out the words in turn and have him arrange his word strips in order, then read off the line.


After your child has learned several sight words, encourage him to create some new sentences using those words. This is another activity that works well with the word strips. Let your child arrange them in various orders as he composes his original sentences and reads them aloud. You can include words from previous lessons, too, as you progress.

At this point your child will have learned the words to the line of the poem that you taught. He may be expecting to learn the second line tomorrow, but you want to mix things up to keep it interesting.

The more variety you can throw into his reading lessons, the more will the child enjoy them (Home Education, p. 204).


Because the same circle time sequence is repeated daily for 2-3 weeks at a time, children learn the songs and verses “by heart,” and will retain them for life.

Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, stressed the importance of repetition when he developed the first Waldorf school in Germany in the 1920’s. Current brain research confirms that repetition aids a child’s brain development. The connections of billions of neural pathways in the brain are strengthened through repeated experiences.

After learning all the letters, the next step is to copy the teacher’s writing. Typically the children will recite a poem together until it is learned by heart.

Then the teacher will write the poem on the board, and the children will copy it into their “main lesson books,” the books that children in a Waldorf school create themselves.

Because the children already know the poem and they have learned the alphabet, they will begin to make connections. “Oh, this must spell “brown bear” because both these words start with “B” and those are the first two words of the poem!”


Word-building lessons are a great tool to help your child learn to break words down into their smaller components. These type of lessons are also a wonderful opportunity to let your child discover that not every word with the same letter combination will be pronounced in the same way. Yet all of this is done in an interesting and gentle way. Here’s how.

For the word-building lessons, you’ll need the loose letters and a chalkboard or white board. You might also want a blank notebook or small journal to use as your child’s Word Notebook. Let him decorate the cover, if he would like to.

  1. Write on the board one of the words your child learned in the previous sight-word lesson. For our example here, we’ll use “twinkle.” Ask your child to read the word.
  1. Erase the word on the board and see if your child can spell it from memory with his loose letters. If not, simply write it on the board again so he can look at it as he creates it with his loose letters.
  1. Write the word on the board, if it is not there already. Say the word slowly and ask, “What do we have left if we take away tw?” Erase the beginning letter(s) and help your child get “inkle.”
  1. Ask, “What would you add to “inkle” to get “tinkle?” Have your child add a “t” to create the new word with his loose letters. Use the same process to make “sprinkle” and “wrinkle” and any other “inkle” derivatives that you can think of. Remember, you don’t have to do every possible combination. Choose words that will mean something to your child, and discuss them as you go along.
  1. Write on the board all the words you make, forming them into a list for your child to read aloud. Review this list in various orders as you go through the lesson.
  1. Repeat the process with all the sight words your child learned last time. In this case, you would do word-building with “star” and “little,” as well. “Star” could produce “jar, bar, car, far, mar, par, tar, war, scar, spar, char,” etc. From “little” you could make “brittle, spittle, whittle.”
  2. Let your child notice exceptional pronunciations within the word lists; for example, “war” is pronounced differently than “jar, bar, car” in the list above. Don’t feel like you have to explain the reason a word is pronounced differently even though it looks the same. Simply point out how each word is pronounced, and your child will form his own mental guidelines.
  1. Use all the words your child has learned to create more sentences. As you progress through the lessons, you’ll have a large storehouse of words to use. Write new sentences on the board and have your child read them aloud.
  1. You can also keep a record of all the words your child has learned by writing them in a notebook or journal. Use the Word Notebook for review and to celebrate his progress.

Teach your child rhymes. Rhyming teaches phonemic awareness and letter recognition, in addition to the most basic English words. Read nursery rhymes to your child, and then eventually make lists of easy-to-read rhymes such as mop, top, flop, pop, and cop. Your child will begin to see the patterns of sounds that are made when certain letters are combined – in this case, the sound ‘o-p’ makes.

Have your child practice decoding. Classically known as ‘sounding out’ words, decoding is when a child reads a word by making the sounds of each individual letter, rather than trying to read the whole word at once. Reading is broken up into two primary parts: decoding/reading a word, and comprehending its meaning. Don’t expect your child to recognize and comprehend words just yet; have them focus on decoding and sounding out word parts..

Decoding aloud is typically easier for the child (and you) to learn how to say the word. Have them break it into parts with clapping if necessary.

Fit writing in with the reading. Reading is a necessary precursor to writing, but as your child develops reading skills have them practice their writing in conjunction. Children learn to read faster and easier if they learn to write at the same time. The motor memory of the letters, listening to their sounds and seeing them in writing will reinforce new learning. So, teach your child to write letters and words.

Identify letters in natural settings

 Incorporate multiple domains of development

 Alphabet crafts allow your child to learn the shape of a letter along with an association of the sound it makes all the while utilizing fine motor skills in the process of cutting, gluing, and creating!

-Playing games that involve gross motor skills (like tossing beanbags on the appropriate letter) are also wonderful ways to include movement.

-Of course, every child loves songs and rhymes!  Take an inventory of your child’s strengths and areas of interest and target activities to fit them!

 Word Families

Word families are words that rhyme. Once your child recognizes the word “mop”, he’ll then have an advantage to reading all of the other words that have the same rime (top, pop, stop, cop, hop) because only one letter is changing.  Plus, recognizing rhyming words is a great language skill in and of itself!

By admin