Topic | Not sure where to post this: Questions about teaching reading

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  • Delkroemer


    My head is spinning from all the information I have been getting on teaching a child to read lol

    I have a 6 yr old who is the first child I am teaching to read and I don’t feel very confident in teaching reading of all things, although I myself was an advanced reader at her age and love reading. I want my children to love reading, so I want to do this right. So far, not so good.

    I bought a book for teaching reading and my daughter hates it. It has got to the point where we have not been practicing for months now because she cries about it, I get frustrated and I honestly don’t like the book much myself, as it feels like twaddle. Some of the “stories” are just a plain insult to a child’s smarts and then there are lists of words she has to sound out and they bore her.

    I have been thinking about using CM method of teaching reading now because it sounds less stressful and I think my daughter would enjoy it and actually learn, because she seems to learn words by seeing them. She has taught herself to read and spell many words already because they interested her. Yet, I worry about the CM method because from what I understand it is not teaching phonics, correct? Also, there seems to be a bunch of rules and things my child should know before we begin learning to read. She knows her letters and their sounds, is that enough? She seems to do well with sounding things out when she needs to, and though I haven’t taught her all about letter blends and digraphs, etc, she seems to pick up or understand them easily.

    Anyway, what should I teach before teaching reading? Or can I teach everything about reading altogether? How successful is the CM method and can you use any poems or stories to do it?


    I think there is some value in Basic Phonics – and for some kids even more phonics is helpful.  I do think what works varies a bit from child to child.

    Using the CM method, there is some phonics… once they know the letter sounds, it is (I believe) mostly making words in word families.  And then, yes, the rest is reading by “sight”.

    I also have 2 teachers in the family (my dad, and my aunt) who have at times taught reading (they have taught a variety of grades) – and they both said that a MIXTURE of methods usually works best….


    I’ve also heard one quote (not always true…) that answers the question “Which reading curriculum/program works best?” – The answer for most kids…. “The third one”.


    I posted what I have pasted below awhile back about my reading journey with my daughter. To summarize it, we basically did CM style lessons, but I extended the word building in word families (as is incorporated into the Delightful Reading lessons) into groups of words with the same phonograms to get more phonics knowledge in there. I personally think phonics is important and while there is some gentle phonics in DR, it didn’t quite go far enough for me. Now that she is reading well, we are using the phonics-based spelling program All About Spelling to address any phonics gaps that we have. While I do think phonics rules and such are important tools, it is also important to remember that a)they are only tools, not ends in and of themselves and b) are best learned in a meaningful context rather than an isolated list of words. If you are feeling out of your league in teaching reading, I highly reccommend Ruth Beechick’s book The 3 R’s – she has a whole section on gently and progressively teaching reading without a fancy program, and has a very “Mama, you really CAN DO THIS” tone to it. I found it very helpful when we got stuck around the same place it sounds you are now.

    Hope some of this is helpful!



    We had started with a phonics book (Phonics Pathways) which we got really bored/bogged down with about the time she was reading 3 and 4 letter short vowel words. So, we dumped that in favor of a more organic approach that was a combination of CM ideas and Ruth Beechick’s ideas from The 3 R’s. (Great book BTW, if you’ve not read it.) Basically, we would read a page or 2 from a Dick and Jane book (any primer type reader or even Dr Suess book would work for this), if we came across words that she didn’t know I would just tell her what they were and she would essentially learn them as sight words. Then later, we’d get our letter tiles out on the table and take one of the new “sight words” she had learned and form other words with the same sounds. (I would still refer to our phonics book to get lists of words with the same sound/phonograms in them.) She made a tremendous amount of progress this way! I think it was in part that she was learning new words in the midst of a meaningful context. She too had struggled with the idea of the long vowel rule when I presented it to her as a rule, but after she had learned a few long vowel words (like Jane, here, etc) as sight words, she picked right up on it. When the DR kit became available, I bought it because it was built on a similar premise, but liked that it would have everything laid out for me. So, we started with that. Many things I do like about it (ease of use one of those things, and the engaging CM style format), and dd loved it. However, I recently decided to discontinue it. The biggest reason for that is that I felt we were spending too much time on word families that she knew already, and not enough time with the word families/phonograms that she is still uncomfortable with. I also kind of wanted it to have more of a phonogram-based approach to phonics as opposed to a word-families approach. I felt like it would be a better use of our time to just continue to read books together, little bits at a time, and work through the sounds she still needed help with on an individual basis (using the approach we were using before). If that makes sense. I will probably hang on to the DR program and try it again with my son when he is ready to start reading. But, I think it will be better suited for someone starting from the beginning rather than using it for a ‘gap-filler’.




    Yes, that is enough. And since you don’t want to bore her to tears…I think CM method is perfect for her. You can use any short poem, verse, song, fable…but the shorter the better IMO – to start with. I ordered Delightful Reading here for my second go with CM reading method. Wish I would have had it to start with…just to hold my hand. You can certainly do it without, but it’s all laid out …would have saved me time and given me confidence, I love the method! I was the one bored stiff with the twaddle we did w/ my first 2 kids! And about phonics… my .02 is…you do use it with CM method on “between” days by choosing a word in your lesson and doing more that fit the pattern…cat, rat, sat, that. You can do as much phonics as you feel a need to. Ruth Beechick’s 3 R’s is a great little supplement guide for the basics. If you want to learn all 2gazillion rules to explain every reular irregularuty in our language, you can, but most kids learn to read way before learning them all…and then they pretty much learn them on their own. You can fill in by using teaching opportunities that pop up in dictation, copywork, etc. It just works out! I love teaching reading now!!


    I have three very strong readers (16, 15, 8) and one just learning to read. We do not use sight words and they have done beautfully without them. A year or more ago I gave dd#3 the complete sight word list to see how many she knew. She had not problem with any of them. Yet she has never been taught to memorize words only to analyze them. Even words like “said” are not true sight words as it is a past tense of say and the “i” replaces the “y” inside a word. (Y is known as the stand-in I.)

    To me using sight words is like teaching a person to memorize math formulas without an understanding of what he/she is doing and it can actually cause confusion. It passes on the message that sometimes we guess at a word and sometimes we sound them out. 


    I’ve been using “The Reading Lesson” and my little one is learning to read, but it feels like twaddle to me. For anyone who has seen both, how does it compare with “Delightful Reading”? Would it be worth switching? How is “Delightful Reading” set up?


    @Delkroemer asked “Yet, I worry about the CM method because from what I understand it is not teaching phonics, correct?”

    I don’t think that this is correct.  In Volume 1 of CM’s series, she says you should be alternating one day of phonics with one day of ‘reading at sight’.  (see the section on reading starting on pg 199) With my 2 that have already learned to read, this was a great balance.

    Here is my view about phonics and sight reading, based on many years helping hundreds of struggling readers (at Sylvan Learning Centre).  Good readers use a variety of skills.  When children try to rely on one approach, they struggle. 

    We need learn to recognize words that are familiar (ie. sight words), so that we don’t have to decode them every time, but we also need phonics to be able to decode new words.  Often we use a combination of the skills simultaneously.  When we come across an unfamiliar word, we look to see if we recognize any of it.  The thought process goes something like this (although not necessarily consciously, and usually very quickly): 

    “Is it a compound word made up of words I already know?  Is there a base word that I know with prefixes/suffixes added?  Do any sections look familiar?  Can I break it up into parts I know?” 

    Then we start applying knowledge of phonics patterns to the rest.  We also think about how the word fits into the sentence and/or paragraph, to see if there are any context clues.  We try a few words out to see which ones fit both the context and the letters on the page.

    Of course, with experienced readers, all this is an almost instantaneous process, so that we don’t even notice doing it.  All the strategies are important, however.  Some children pick some of them up automatically, some need direct instruction.  CM definitely talked about using and teaching many strategies, and she didn’t leave phonics out.  I love how she blends all the skills into one overall approach to teaching reading.  I highly recommend reading that section of Volume 1.


    Doug Smith

    Yet, I worry about the CM method because from what I understand it is not teaching phonics, correct?

    You might find our Basic and Intensive Phonics video helpful. It explains a bit about how Charlotte Mason taught reading and the difference between the two types of phonics.


    Thank you all so much for the replies, I have much to ponder but I feel better already. Thank you for the suggestions, and doug thanks for the video.

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