Tag Archives: Reading

Reading to the children. Audio verses real person.

One of the important “rules” for getting children interested in reading is not only for them to see the adults in their life reading, but to being read to. From personal observation I would say reading to a child has the same interactive, relational type effect as talking with them for language acquisition and then learning.

Now that I am back on steroids and antibiotics I have a voice. So last night, for the first time in ages I read the children too stories (Fin M’Coul and The Squire and the Scroll in case you wondered). I realised that we need to do this more often if possible. I haven’t read a complete story to them (let alone two) for so long.  I realised last night that even though I sit with them most often when they are listening to audio stories, because the audio is just to replace my voice, that it still isn’t the same as having me do the reading. There is definitely something extra in the interaction when it’s my voice as well as presence.

I can’t help thinking of all that research into why hearing children in Deaf families learn Sign Language but not oral language even though their parents expose them to TV and radio to help this. The reason is that language is acquired and then learned though interactive, close relationships. Children require a close one to one time for language acquisition and very small group time for listening and being part of a story time. Machine’s simply can’t replace this, no matter how good the audio quality.

I need to make more effort to read to them when I have a voice. It can be frustrating when my voice fades out half way through a story, but maybe we can have an arrangement where either Roni or Avila take over if that happens.

I am not up to date on what research or studies have to say about the importance of reading to children, but I assume from a common sense point of view that it is very important for reading and language and even attachment.

So, I must do more of it whenever I can.

Home Education and The Importance of Reading

I was talking to someone today about Home Education in general, outcomes in particular and we ended up discussing reading. I must admit I am very interested in how children learn to read. The person I was talking to today had been told that children will just pick up the ability to read in the same way they pick up the ability to speak. I was surprised that such a view as I have never seen anything that would support it.

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Home Education ; children learning to read.

I have had a number of conversations about reading recently. It seems to be the topic of the moment.

One of the questions that those of us who admit in public that we are home educating our children get asked is, “How will you teach them to read?”

A friend has told me her health visitor has made another visit – we were all amazed as no HV we know will leave their desk. But my friend wonders if she is getting extra visits because she has said her children will not be going to school. The HV said in tones of careful admonition, “You will have to teach them to read.”

My friend managed to restrain her reply. She is a better woman than me.

Another mum who knows I have been using  a “scheme” has phoned on more than oe occasion to check out where in the scheme my 6 yr old is. As my 8 yr old is finished with those books, it makes it harder for her to judge ‘where’ he is. In our last conversation I explained that I move between books and scheme. Avila has finished the grade 10 Oxford Reading Books, so we have moved onto Stage 4 of Step Into Reading and then there’s a couple of ORT books at stage 11 for her to read and some Step Into Reading stage 5. She is reading other books as she likes. So I am not asking her to follow a set pattern of reading any more.

I know a lot of home educators believe that schemes are not a good idea, and I do understand their misgivings. The biggest problem with them is that it can lead to a sort of competition, where short cuts are made to ensure the child is ticking the correct achievement box, and if they are not, they will know.  The other problem is that Oxford Reading Tree books in particular are very expensive. Step Into Reading books are much more reasonable. Both lean to the gimmicky approach at times so you need to weed out the twaddle to find the gems. The advantage of them,  to me, is that they are very gradual in building reading vocabulary so the child learning isn’t overwhelmed by lots of new words. I like the fact that the Step Into Reading books are stand alone, so we don’t need a whole load of them. I like the ORT books because they were lent to me :) And the children have enjoyed the Magic Key stories.

All three of the younger children started with Starfall alongside the Oxford Reading Tree books. I decided some time ago that Avila needed to come off the Oxford RT books for a while as they are mixed approach and she really needed a strongly phonics approach to help her decode new words. We went to the old McGuffey Readers for a while, until she was stronger and more confident in reading. It worked, and when she returned to the ORT books she read much more fluently. Those of you reading this for ideas on teaching reading – all I can say is, you will know if your child is struggling, and these days there are a lot of excellent old and free resources that can help.

If she went to school she would be in Year 1 (kindergarten for Americans). The other mother who wanted to know where she was in her reading thought that Stage 10 ORT was very advanced for her age (6). I wasn’t so sure. I have been out of the school loop for a while, so I just didn’t know (or care) whether she was advanced or not. I know she struggles to decode words and her perception of letters is somewhat off, and this has slowed her down; but she can read fine and enjoys reading. That’s what matters to me.

But more recently I have heard mothers say that their children (with no perceived reading problem) have moved to Year 2 while reading Stage 6 or 7 or ORT books. Aha, so my 6 year old is better than theirs? I really doubt that. And something in the conversations that comes up over and over again is that their children are becoming bored and more reluctant to read.  Some parents are by-passing the school and having their children read harder and more interesting books at home to keep the love of reading alive in spite of the “scheme,” and in spite the number of mums reporting that the teacher will not accept their child needs more challenge.

I have to say, I can’t really think that I have “taught” any of the younger children to read. I did have to re-teach Alex to read, and that was a very different process. But the younger ones just show interest in words and stories and then we read together, they read with me and then they read to me. It sort of happens, without a strictly formal lesson of any kind.

I do make sure they read to me  every day. But now they all spend independent time with books, even Heleyna, and they read to one another. They also get quite a bit of time to read to other people’s children. Even Heleyna has “read” to a baby, from one of the little books she knows by heart.

The important part of this process is to leave them with a love of reading. I don’t want them to see books as something of a chore, to do with boredom and banality. If they are stripped of their natural love of reading because I give them boring, poorly written books to read, very, very slowly – then they will have a huge treasure trove of thought, ideas and history closed to them.

So, if there is one piece of advice I would give to a home ed family starting out with younger children learning to read it is this; do not be trapped into the “What stage are yours?” questions. Go as fast or as slowly as your child needs and don’t stick with books they hate, just because you think they should.

Reading and Listening Week: Tues and Wed

More books and stories we have read and listened to:

Horton Hatches the Egg

Grandfather’s Journey

The Squire and the Scroll

From Our Island Story the Coming of Arthur (Ch 12)

From Famous Men of the Middle Ages we listened to Alaric the Visogoth

And a couple of Poems from A Moral Alphabet by Hillaire Belloc. We loved D for Dreadful.

Aesop’s Fables (with CD)

A Scary Adventure

The Clown of God de Paola

And just in case you are thinking Iona doesn’t join in with reading week-she is reading

The House on the Strand and has requested Notes From the Underground which came up in her Open Uni course. So I’ll get that for her.

We made the reading tree as you can see :)

Tomorrow we’re out all day and Friday is the usual kind of Friday with the HE families, so I don’t think there’s many more stories t0 add to the tree now.

Teaching my child to read.

I am in the process of teaching 5 yr old Avila to read. Ronan reads well already and although I will make sure he continues to practice and build his vocabulary the main teaching side of his reading is done. He knows how to read and so can work his way through new words.

Avila had been learning in much the same way as Ronan but I soon noticed that she was doing things rather differently. When working out what a word said she would start with any letter in the word and then make a wild guess at what the word was based on what she thought the other letters looked like. She confuses b and d and p and q and sometimes b and p and in maths I notice she gets 6 and 9 confused.

I have two older children with dyslexia. Now, these days dyslexia has become a contentious issue. There are mixed views on what it is and what causes it. There is a growing view – that apparently dates back to 1929, that dyslexia is a learned disorder; that is children get taught to be dyslexic because of the school’s approach to literacy. Reading some of the research more closely however it would appear that it isn’t quite so simple as all that.

There are children who apparently have a predisposition to dyslexia and therefore the one sized fits all approach to teaching children to read doesn’t fit all and can lead to those with a predisposition to dyslexia finding themselves with serious reading problems later on.

Alex was taught in two primary schools. In the first one (top of the league tables at the time) he was taught using what they called “The Real Book” approach and later with “Thrash” chartes. He became more and more unable to cope with reading. His younger sister was using the same method and his older brother had learned this way too.

Now interestingly Josh had been on a SEN program for reading because he was struggling but he soon came off SEN as he overcame the problem. Alex didn’t.

When they changed to a different primary school (after we moved house) they were in a school much lower down the league tables but the SENCO soon had Alex under her wing and used a strongly phonics based approach with him.

Meanwhile it was noticed that Iona was unable to read and her writing was appalling. Like Alex she reversed letters and letter order, but unlike Alex she was unable to differentiate the beginning and ending of words so her written work was essentially just a string of letters, some of which were reversed.

Iona had many dyspraxic symptoms too. She couldn’t tie shoe laces (still has to use a special method) and couldn’t coordinate a knife and fork. She constantly walked into doors, chairs, tripped over things, dropped things. She was, quite frankly, a bit of a pain to live with at times.

Alex had not had those problems and soon appeared to have overcome a great many of his dyslexic symptoms. He should have done reasonably well at secondary school had his SEN work continued. But it didn’t and the next two and half years were pretty rough to hellish.

By the time I had the guts and gumption to home educate he was functionally illiterate.

Through home ed I thought his dyslexia was fairly mild and put a great deal of his school problems down to the massive bullying problem and to some extent I think that was right. On attending college he received a full assessment and was found to have dyslexia at level 4. The assessment stated that having an IQ of 136 had helped him overcome many of the dyslexic tendencies.

So, the question remains. Do I have two dyslexic children because they were not taught to read properly at school, or is it just one of those things that happens in our family?

Avila is showing signs of struggling to learn to read. I have been using phonics and Oxford Reading Tree books with her-as I did  with Ronan. I have noticed that she is far more distracted by the pictures in the ORT books than Ronan was and I have read that colourful picture books are unhelpful for children with a tendency to dyslexia. I have no idea if this is true or not. There is so much argument about what is best for dyslexic children that I wonder how any parent or teacher can decide what is best.

Well I don’t know who is right about dyslexia but I do know I want Avila to be able to read well. So this is what I am doing:

She spends time on Starfall each day reading through the strories and completing the games and videos so she learns all the phonic rules. She has the worksheets from their download site to accompany the reading. This is her primary letter formation work as well. I also use some of the printables from MoreStarfall, especially the ones where she can learn the shape of words.

Alongside this we are working through the McGuffey Primer which she enjoys. It is strongly phonic based and doesn’t have too many distracting pictures. So far this seems to be working.

Finally I have bought the ebook Visual, Perceptual Skills Building Bk 1 from Critical Thinking Co.

I think we probably will go back to the Oxford Reading Tree books at some point. She had reached level 5 and was reading the More Stories set which have more sight words for extended vocab. Two or three people, including a teacher have said this puts her well ahead of her peers in Reception at school; but that doesn’t change the fact that we are seeing difficulties in her approach to reading.

When and how children learn to read.

Very interesting lecture on when and how to get children reading from a Montessori point of view by Margaret Homfray. Some of the stuff she says is just good old common sense, but she also makes some very interesting observations about how literacy levels have dropped over the years despite the reduction in class sizes.

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Homeschooling and Nursery considerations.

On Tuesday the little nursery Avila attends had been flooded so she stayed home. She doesn’t go Wednesday and Thursday and then on Friday I forgot to send her. I forgot again yesterday and they phoned to see if she was ill! Honestly I can’t believe the things I forget sometimes-but then the three biggies managed to miss the fact she hadn’t gone as well.  I was quite touched that the staff were genuinely concerned in case she had been readmitted to hospital.

Part of the reason I am forgetting to send her is that she is joining in with Ronan’s work more and more. She is beginning to read and while he wrote a letter to his cousin yesterday she was busy practicing letter formation. She does counting and number recognition when he is doing maths and she joins in with catechism and making the big display. She sits with us for story time and even likes to join in with Astronomy sessions or looking at dinosaurs.

With the other home ed families coming over she is joining in with the children in singing and playing. One of the children M is 4 and he and Avila have begun reading the Oxford Reading Tree books together.

What with all that and going off to the chiropractor twice a week I have lost track of Avila going to nursery. She loves it there and has friends so I don’t want to stop her going at this point-but it is something I am wondering whether I should cut down on. Not sure yet. I’ll reconsider after Christmas.

Learning to Read.

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Survived the first week of homeschooling this year

I’ve had quite a few phone conversations over the last couple of weeks with the other mums in our homeschool group-about new ideas, curriculum, books, tutors…you name it, we’ve discussed it.

I’ve organised the thank you letter writing and making. This time Ronan has wanted to have a go and with a little help has written two short letters.

My ‘brain book’ for 2008 is an A4 desk diary page per day. All the lesson notes, my jobs and important info is in here. It will be useful for when the Local Authority man comes over. He is a lovely (though very talkative) man who fully supports home education as a viable choice. He has a deep knowledge of schools you see.

Ronan has continued with the Linney’s Latin and I am trying a similar approach in teaching him Spanish. Just a phrase or a couple of words a day. This seems to be working and he is retaining his interest.

He is reading well with the Oxford Reading using phonetic cues and using the Magic Key website to add to this including his understanding of sentence structure. His letter formation is improving quite quickly. I am keeping ‘formal’ lessons short and there is still plenty of story time and play time.

Music:I have not done any piano at all with Roni this week, but we have read a lovely children’s story about Mozart. Now that Alex is at college and work such a lot we don’t seem to have Classic FM on all the time-so I think I need to either reintroduce that or get Roni to listen to some good CDs on his personal CD player. He uses it for some stories.

21q05c369vl__aa115_.jpgScripture and Catechism. I am using the Hamlyn Children’s Bible with Ronan either his dad’s or mine (which being the Catholic version has Maccabees). The language is a little harder than modern children’s Bible’s but at least I don’t worry about  weird interpretations and twaddle in the re-write. I also use the Children’s Picture Bible for those shorter story times or when Avila is joining in. Both are well illustrated-the Hamlyn higher quality but a Danish looking Jesus which is a bit irritating, while the smaller one has illustrations that actually give attention to historical detail.

I have started the Baltimore Catechism with Roni because he asked me “Why did God make me?”  Too Funny .

Iona has her own Ignatius Bible (RSV-CE) and I have the whole set of the Navarre Bibles (RSV-CE). We are studying the Gospel of Luke as it is Yr C. Ronan joins in for this.

RE. For the rest of Iona’s religious ed we have started “The Mind of the Maker” by Dorothy Sayers and with some of the great programmes with Dr Alice von Hildebrand we have discussed natural law.

Science Iona is using her Aplogia modules-(although she was stuck for today’s experiment because I have no red cabbage) and continuing her poisonous plants work as well as the forensic project which is to be this terms big wall project. Yesterday we had a look at forensic entomology and learned some fascinating but utterly gross facts. The people who do this work are to be admired for their ability to solve crime with blow fly maggots and other critters, but I have said NO PHOTOs on the wall display!

I’ll leave it at that for now.