My Daughter's Path to Reading

I asked my daughter this morning if she remembers how she learned to read. Her response was, "My teacher read the words with me first. I figure out the tricky words by myself now." Then I asked if she remembered me helping her. Her response was, "Your way was good too. You taught me how to sound out words. I can stretch them." Stretching words is the term her teacher uses. It was a combined effort from my daughter, her teacher, and myself. My daughter is a confident reader now, but that wasn't the story at the beginning of first grade.

My daughter had books read to her since she was a baby. Anytime during the day was storytime. Books were always around, and I read whenever my children asked. If things got crazy or my kids were fighting, I'd grab a book and read for calming down time. At night each of my three children would choose a book. The book chooser would sit on my lap. Their dad would read sometimes too.

My oldest son was reading before Kindergarten. He's eight now. My daughter has a twin brother. They are six now. My daughter was given the same attention as my boys. Reading for my oldest son was easy. He pretended to read stories at an early age. When my son started reading he made up words with the same beginning sound that would make sense. He gave up trying to read words when the sounds he tried didn't make a word. I showed him a few letter combinations like ou, oo, and ay. That's all I did. He mostly taught himself to read. My younger son got instruction at school and I taught him to look for letter combinations and read a word from beginning to end. Both my boys became strong readers without a lot of help.

Even though I'm a teacher I didn't want to put pressure on my children, so I followed their lead when it came to reading. I wanted to see how each child put the pieces of reading together in their own heads. I think my first son tricked me into thinking that children will teach themselves to read if they are read to enough.

I noticed my daughter wasn't as far along as her twin brother the summer before first grade, but I didn't worry. I figured with more instruction at school she would catch up. She knew her letter sounds and a number of sight words. (Plus it is hard for me to teach or tell my daughter anything.)

While watching my daughter read to me in the beginning of first grade a light went on. She was missing a piece to the reading puzzle, and I had to help her find it. It wasn't easy. My daughter thought she had it figured out and any help from me would just slow her down. I tried to show her to read words from beginning to end and match letter sounds to letters in words. She would grab the book away, roll on the floor, and say she knew how to read.

My daughter expected to know a whole word by sight, guess at a word based on pictures, or see if the word made sense in the sentence. These are all good reading behaviors, but she didn't know how to combine the phonics part and read a word from beginning to end. I knew this, because everytime she tried to figure out a word she looked in the air instead of at the word.

Showing my daughter this skill while she read a book was impossible, so I taught her with Phonics Pathways.
We started with simple words matching her eyes to the letter sound she produced. It helped that my daughter knew her short and long vowel sounds. I also taught her the most common phonic patterns. (CV, CVC, VC) We later moved into more difficult phonic patterns. (silent e rule, two vowels, common letter combinations)

Slowly we began reading books at her level together and transfered the skill of reading a word from beginning to end matching letters to sounds. She uses all her reading skills in combination now and is becoming a fluent reader. My daughter has become a reading machine. She reads on the floor with her dog everyday. Sometimes she challenges herself to read every book in her book box.

I've found some free resources to teach reading you may find helpful.



Cathy Puett Miller said...


Thank you for sharing authentic, real life stories about your children coming to the reading table. That is so true that we each have unique ways. Your children were fortunate to have you and teachers who could help identify the "holes" that would give them the most success. It can be a model for families to "look beyond the box". You also did one of the most important things: you let your children see themselves as readers through the constant diet - you made it something they wanted to do.

Victoria said...

Love this story! Thanks for writing it down.

Philip Scott Wikel said...

It's nice to read so much positive info about children and reading.
Thank you,

BookChook said...

I believe we each have our own pathway to learning, and the trick is finding what works best for us. My son was like your eldest - one day he took the book from me and began reading aloud, and I sat there with my mouth hanging open! I just love reading about happy young bookworms.

MaryAnne said...

I'm fascinated by the different paths kids take to reading. Thank you for sharing your daughter's story!

WiseOwlFactory said...

Michelle, this is wonderful information about learning to read, and it is a very complex process. Not every child has a teacher for a parent, and you are so kind to tell the truth. This information will help parents who are struggling with emergent readers see what they can do to help. You provide answers and information about supporting the reading process. Your daughter is self-correcting and is going to make good progress now. Carolyn