When my oldest child was a little one, the thought of teaching her how to read hovered in my mind as a huge challenge. I don’t remember waking up at night, wondering if I would be able to teach her to tie her shoes or to drive a car; but I do remember staring at the ceiling in the dark, wondering if I would be able to teach her to read.
It can seem a daunting task, because so much of education depends on reading. The better a child can read, the easier his schooling will be. But let me assure you that most children will pick up reading quite naturally if raised in a language-rich environment where books are treasured. Many people who grow up in such an environment cannot recall exactly how they learned to read, but learn they did.
So relax, pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, and soak up Charlotte Mason’s gentle and natural approach to teaching your child to read—today’s addition to our Subject-by-Subject series.
Though Charlotte did not start formal reading lessons until the child was at least six years old, she outlined many helpful informal activities we could do during the early years to lay the foundation. Read A-B-C books together. Get your child a set of letters that he can handle and play with, whether wooden blocks with letters or foam letters or magnetic letters. As he becomes familiar with each letter, allow him to locate the ones he knows on signs or pages of books. Encourage his discoveries but don’t push. Let him progress at his own pace. Take your cues from his expressions of curiosity.
Learning the sounds the letters make comes next, again, accomplished informally as the child is ready. Eventually you can start using those play letters to put sounds together to make short words that mean something to him, words like at, cat, bat, sat, fat, mat or dog, fog, log. As he becomes familiar with word-building, you can introduce blends into the mix and then expand to words with long-vowel sounds. Basic phonics can be introduced at this point. But even these activities should be informal and done when the child expresses interest.
Once the beginning word-building foundation has been laid, formal reading lessons can begin. Lessons should stay short (no longer than 10 or 15 minutes) and should contain variety to keep them interesting. Following the Charlotte Mason principle of no twaddle, you would select a good children’s poem or fable and focus on one line or sentence to begin with.
- Introduce the word.—Write on the board a new word from your selection. Draw the child’s attention to it and tell him what the word is. Discuss it a bit to help the child form a personal relation to it.
- Learn the word.—Ask the child to look at the word carefully until he can see it in his mind even with his eyes closed. Erase the word and see if he can spell it using letter tiles. (No handwriting required.) If he hesitates, write it again so he can see and copy the correct spelling.
- Find the word.—Point out a pile of word tiles or slips that contains each word in your selection. See if the child can find the word he just learned in the pile. Display a sheet of paper that has your selected poem or fable on it, and see if he can find the word on that page.
- Review all words.—Write the word on one side of the board, starting a list of all the words he will learn today. As each word is learned, add it and review them all in varying orders.
- Read the words.—Once all the words in your selected line or sentence have been learned in this way, have your child put together the word tiles in the correct order and read the whole line or sentence. Then allow him to read it from the printed page. Play with the word tiles to form other sentences or phrases. As more lessons are added, you can use all the words learned to form a multitude of sentences.
- Record the words.—Last, add the words learned to a Word Book that you can use for other review activities.
To add variety, Charlotte would follow the sight-reading lessons (outlined above) with word-building lessons. Here’s how.
- Review an old word.—Write on the board one of the words learned last time. Ask the child to read it. Erase it and see if he can spell it with his letters. Again, if he hesitates, give him the correct model to copy.
- Build more words.—Using his letters, change the first letter of the word and see what new word it makes, just like he has been doing in his pre-reading activities of word building. This step will reinforce basic phonics.
- Review the new words.—Each new word can go on the board to be reviewed in varying orders as the lesson progresses.
- Read more words.—Add these new words to the mix to create even more new sentences for your child to read and enjoy.
- Record the words.—Last, add the words learned to his Word Book.
Continue in this fashion as you work your way through the children’s poem or fable, always keeping the lessons short and the attitude delightful, and soon your child will be reading with confidence and ease.
You may find these other resources helpful as well:
- The Delightful Reading Kit—Everything you need to teach reading the Charlotte Mason way; covers the 100 most commonly used words, plus hundreds more.
- A series of articles on teaching reading that goes a little more in depth.
- Two videos that demonstrate the Charlotte Mason approach to teaching reading and the difference between basic phonics and intensive phonics.
- An article on teaching reading from our Language Arts series.
Charlotte Mason Seminar in Fort Mill, South Carolina
Saturday, October 6, Sonya will be leading a Charlotte Mason seminar in Fort Mill, South Carolina (near Charlotte, NC). If you have been wanting to learn more about Charlotte Mason’s methods, this seminar would be a great opportunity!
Here is what others who have attended this seminar had to say:
“Today’s seminar was both informative and empowering! The ‘how-to’ was invaluable, the materials were excellent, and the practice—letting us narrate—was eye opening! . . . I came in a ‘believer’ in CM methods but left knowing I could be a confident ‘doer’—THANK YOU!”
“I only wish I had the opportunity to attend this seminar when I first began homeschooling using CM method. Thank you for your work and time making Charlotte’s method understandable and simple.”
“I’ve been to a different seminar that had me feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. But I was energized and excited by what you shared and now can’t wait to begin this homeschool journey!”
Online registration is now open for the All-Day Charlotte Mason Seminar. Registration deadline is October 1 and seating is limited. So register today!
This is part of the series: Subject by Subject
How to teach each school subject in a Charlotte Mason way.
- A Generous Curriculum: Subject By Subject,
- Three Basic CM Principles: Subject by Subject, Part 2
- Teaching History: Subject by Subject, Part 3
- Teaching Geography: Subject by Subject, Part 4
- Teaching Spelling: Subject by Subject, Part 5
- Teaching Bible: Subject by Subject, Part 6
- Teaching Handicrafts: Subject by Subject, Part 7
- Teaching Science: Subject by Subject, Part 8
- Teaching Foreign Language: Subject by Subject, Part 9
- Teaching Music: Subject by Subject, Part 10
- Teaching Writing: Subject by Subject, Part 11
- Teaching Literature: Subject by Subject, Part 12
- Teaching Grammar: Subject by Subject, Part 13
- Teaching Beginning Reading: Subject by Subject, Part 14
- Teaching Art: Subject by Subject, Part 15
- Teaching Poetry: Subject by Subject, Part 16
- Teaching Math: Subject by Subject, Part 17