Welcome back to Best Case Parenting and another article to hopefully lighten the parenting load. Today we are talking about how NOT to teach your child to read! The worst way to teach reading! If you are planning to teach your child to read, please don’t follow this method! You might already have done it without realizing!!
Why should you listen to me? Well, I am a kindergarten teacher with well over thirteen years’ experience at the time of writing. I am not saying I am the best reading teacher in the world, but I have spent many years learning and applying the theory behind it! If you want to find out my best ways to teach a child to read, you can take a look HERE.
What’s the problem here?
Reading is a complex skill to teach to any child, and many people have no clue how to do it. The other problem is that a lot of teachers don’t take the time to explain to parents how their child is being taught reading at school and what can be done at home to help. This leaves many parents who want to help their child read (for one reason or another) a bit stuck!
These days, what do most people do if they want to learn something new? They usually resort to Google, Youtube or both! These parents will often react in the same way, assuming the internet can solve all their problems! It should be easy to learn how to teach reading from the internet, right? WRONG!
Why you shouldn’t use the internet to teach reading!
I will start by saying that not all information on the internet about reading is bad. The problem is, if you don’t have any background in teaching reading, you will not understand how to tell the difference. What most parents end up with after perusing the internet is a mishmash of strategies and ideas they do not understand how to use.
The other problem here is that teaching reading is a complex process, something that you won’t learn well in a twenty minute YouTube video (for example). For someone that has no idea about how to teach reading, what you need is a solid program you can follow step by step. It is pretty much impossible to find a good one for free on the internet. Trust me, I have tried. Go read my review of the Free Reading Program if you don’t believe me.
To back up my claims here, I want to highlight several popular YouTube videos about teaching reading and how they could cause you (as parents) problems.
The Akeeba Maze Video
I will start by saying that I have nothing against Akeeba Maze, she seems to know what she is talking about. The problem is she is not explaining all the potential issues to parents watching her videos. This video has over 200,000 views at the time of writing, so that’s a lot of potentially misguided parents. You can watch the video in question below:
What does she get right?
Akeeba does have a lot of good information here. Such as not teaching the letters in a way that so many parents do….like in the infamous ABC song below!!
After hearing this song, many parents go out and start teaching their children the letter names in the traditional A-Z alphabet way. This is totally unnecessary and doesn’t really help with reading at all! So Akeeba has that right! In fact, I myself spend a lot of time dealing with this as a teacher in my day job, and wish this ABC song was never invented 🙂
She also has some good points about teaching the accurate pronunciations of the phonic sounds.
Akeeba also shows a book she recommends that follows her method of teaching. This is great, as it is encouraging parents watching to buy some type of system they can follow step by step.
What does she get wrong (in my opinion)?
The biggest thing here is the fact that she is encouraging using the Distar alphabet. This is a very old school method to teach phonics. They use a modified alphabet to give the child an idea as to how the letter should sound. It does work, but there are two big problems with it. Firstly, it is not widely used. Go ask your child’s teacher or the average man on the street, both will likely have no idea what it is. This is a problem because you are essentially teaching a phonic program that no-one else can help you with. And trust me, you will need help if you are a parent. The Distar alphabet is hard to learn and takes quite a lot of practise to get right.
What is the second problem around Distar? Well, as this method is not widely used, your child is probably being taught a different style of phonics at school and is going to get confused! Simple as that!
Another key thing that she does wrong (in my opinion) is just throwing out there the idea that ‘your child can write each sound as they learn it’ or words to that effect. No mention of appropriate age for writing or what results to expect. This will probably lead to many parents forcing their children to try and write perfect looking letters that are not age appropriate. This is the problem when you are trying to go over everything in one video, these kind of details get missed out and the parents fill in the blanks.
OK, I think that’s enough of this video, but hopefully you can see some of the pitfulls a parent might fall into if they went off of this video to teach reading to their child.
On to the next one….
The Jady A Video
This woman has made quite a name for herself doing educational videos aimed at parents. The video below has over 3 million views!
Again, like with the first video, she says a lot of things right, I am not saying she is a bad reading teacher! Just that the delivery will leave some parents confused and/or on the wrong path.
What does she get right?
Early in the video she is talking about the fact that teaching reading phonetically is better than using purely sight. This is correct, however I am not aware of any programs trying to teach reading purely by sight. Actually, most modern phonic programs are a mixture of phonetic awareness and some memorizing of sight words. So there is still the possibility of confusion.
Later in the video, Jady A does have some good ideas for asking children to elongate their sounds when trying to sound out short words.
Jady A does introduce a Phonic Primer document that goes over the order to teach phonic sounds to a child. This is good. The problem is, the order in this document doesn’t really match up with the order Jady A shows in this video. Throughout the video, she gives the impression to just teach all single sounds from A-Z first, then go onto her ‘a e i o u’ chart and then sound out short words and finish with sight words. This is not what the primer says, and could confuse parents following along.
What does she get wrong (in my opinion)?
It is good that she is talking about teaching phonetic sounds, but then she starts going through a set of A-Z flashcards showing what the phonic sound should be for each. Firstly, if a parent taught their child in this way they would probably get bored and loose interest. Also, most modern phonic programs teach phonic sounds in a unique order to make it faster for children to be able to sound out words. None of this is mentioned here.
In this video, Jady A shows a method she uses to help practise blending. It is a chart that blends the single phonic sounds with each consonant ‘a e i o u ‘. This makes a set of short two sound ‘words’ that a child could go through to get better at blending.
Although this is not a method I would personally use, I am not going to say that it doesn’t work. What I would say is that by showing parents this chart you are giving the impression that they should drill their child to go through this whole chart. Most children would find this incredibly boring. We want to make learning to read fun, not be a series of drills. And unless you explicitly tell parents not to use this chart for drilling or rote learning, that is what most will do. Also, if not done right, teaching with this chart might lead to them simply memorizing the ‘word’ and its accompanying sound rather than actually reading it.
Jady A has some real mixed messages when it comes to sight words too(A sight word is a word that can’t be sounded out with regular phonic sounds). The main issue is that she gives the impression that sight words should be taught at the end after a child is good at recognizing phonic sounds and reading short words. However, most experts would recommend to gradually introduce sight words in a specific order at the same time as teaching single sounds.
Also, she brings out a reader that she says only has decodable words in it, and is saying that children can read these before they know sight words. But this reader uses the word ‘has’ many times, which is a sight word and can’t be decoded with regular phonic sounds! This is why sight words are usually taught together with phonic sounds, so that children can start reading sentences (and these kind of readers) sooner.
Jady A’s heart is in the right place here. She genuinely wants to help others by outlining how to teach reading, but ends up with something that could lead to parents teaching their children inappropriately.
In both cases here, it shows the big difference between a well-designed course and a Youtube video. A course has a structure that is well thought out and introduces everything is the right order for parents to digest. A Youtube video often ends up being an ad-hoc collection of information delivered in the order the presenter remembers them in.
It’s actually scaring me how much mis-information and confusion could abound from these two videos, which are amongst the most watched on Youtube when it comes to teaching children reading. The other scary thing is, neither of these videos mentioned anything about playing games whilst teaching reading. Especially when working with younger children, learning to read should be based on games and done so that the child is learning without realizing most of the time! Drilling flashcards and rote learning will kill a child’s love of reading in no time!!
What should I do then?
Now that you can see the pitfalls of using the internet to teach your child reading, you are probably wondering what you should do instead?
Firstly, I would say that you should always be in contact with your child’s teacher (assuming they go to school). Find out what phonic system is used there and try to adopt the same or very similar at home to avoid confusion. The core way your child is learning reading should be the same both at home and at school. Your child’s teacher can also give advice as to what you could help with at home.
Secondly, find a good reading program that is aimed at parents. I say that, because I see many good reading systems that are aimed at teachers and use a lot of lingo parents might struggle to understand. Or that require some knowledge of teaching reading in order to work out what resources to use and when. A good example of this is Reading Head Start, a great program I reviewed on this website but found it too teacher focused.
If you are looking for a good parent focused reading program, I would have to recommend Children Learning Reading. Not a great name for a reading system, but an excellent step by step program that any parent could follow and find success. You can read my full review HERE or simply go straight over to their website by clicking HERE. As a thirteen year teaching veteran, this is the program I always recommend to parents.
If you have any of your own tips for teaching reading to children (from a parents’ point of view), we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below.