Teaching your kids to read

key words flashcardsBefore we left for our sabbatical, I sat down with the teachers at my son’s school and asked them if they had any suggestions or activities they recommended for my son while we’re away. They told me that kids often forget basic lessons if they take a long break from school — apparently kids can forget how to use scissors, forget how to count, even forget how to read if they go a while without doing it! So they suggested that I try to keep up on these sorts of activities. They also suggested that I take the time to teach my 4-year-old the basics of reading.

I’m not the most patient parent and I’m certainly not cut out for ‘real’ home-schooling, but I must admit I’m actually having some success thanks to these Key Words Flash Cards — containing the 100 key words that make up 50% of those we read, write and speak every day. The concept of flash cards is easy: they gradually introduce the words and, because of repetition, teach kids to recognize and memorize the words on first sight.

abc flashcardsI’m also teaching my 2-year-old his letters. I’m using the Early Learning ABC Flashcards which are really good because they include both the capital letters and the lowercase ones. (Apparently different countries do it differently — I’ve been teaching my kids the capital letters, but in the UK they teach kids the lowercase letters first!)

In both cases the flashcards are working really well.  My boys actually look forward to our ‘letters and words’ lesson every morning!



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6 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Heather | February 18, 2010 | Reply

The flash cards do look like a good idea.

2. jo 戎嶋 | February 18, 2010 | Reply

I’d like to comment on the teaching of letters, I have taught ESL for many years and have a Montessori background. I would highly recommend using small letters first and only using the phonic sound not the name of the letter, so when you show the card say ‘ah’ ‘buh’ ‘cuh’ not ABC. Kids will pick up the big letters and their names by themselves, from hearing the alphabet song, TV, books etc. If you think about it logically, most of what we read is in lower case and we read phonically, if a child only know uppercase and the letter names how on earth can they read cat? But, if they are taught lower case and phonics they can jump straight into reading. When I started out teaching I soon realised that teaching names and upper case was a waste of time and switched to lowercase and phonics, it made a massive difference.
I have only taught my son (4years old) lowercase and phonics, he did start recognising his letters before he was two, which was a shock to me! but he has just – today, finished his first chapter book, he read Fantastic Mr Fox.
Anyway, that is my two cents worth, it is something i am quite passionate about after seeing a lot of kids struggle with their ABC’s, hope it helps,

3. kim | February 18, 2010 | Reply

My son (4) is being taught in his school (London) also in the phonics system and I have to say it works amazingly well.
He could read his first book after about 2-3 weeks (some children took bit longer, some even quicker).

There is just one thing I don’t understand: why are we in such a hurry to teach our children (at 2?!!! or even 4?!!!, has nothing to do with how intelligent your child is!!!) to read and write and mathematics! In mainland Europe a lot of countries (acadamically well achieving countries!) only start at the age of 6 or even 7 and the children are within 3 months (!!!) at the same level of reading as children starting at a much earlier age(as their brains are much readier to comprehent & learn)! So much for childhood……We have to learn and work all our lives, why not give them a bit of childhood till 6-7….I think now a days (especially here in the uk) it is more of a rat race between parents as what should be our main interest: our children!

Courtney, I think your worldtrip teaches them soooo much more than any school at their age could teach them! Even if your boys would have been behind in reading and writing on return to the uk, they will have learned so much more about nature, family quality time and play than any of his new classmates will maybe ever experience! Good on you guys! You are our inspiration!

4. molly | February 18, 2010 | Reply

I completely agree with Kim. Your traveling for three months will teach them so much more than sitting in a classroom ever will. My oldest is 4.5 and has never been to preschool. Incorporating learning in his play seems to work nicely and I just recently started using the Reading Lesson Program. You can download the first two chapters for free to try it out. Have fun on your trip!!

5. Paul Ruth | February 18, 2010 | Reply


I have seen a number of different theories about teaching young children to read. I don’t know when the right time is, but your post is ver interesting and a great idea. Some say to hold off, others not. The love of reading come from and early age. Most of the time it is the memeories of spending time with mom or dad that conditions this love of reading.

I say keep it up!

(Expand the discussion at a new site, http://www.theneweducationnetwork.com, where we seek to open the lines of communication to better the system.)

6. Kristy | February 20, 2010 | Reply

As one who has spent a fair amount of time studying family literacy, I think that the key word cards are a nice resource for parents, I also agree that beginning reading instruction (phonics, sight word memorization, etc.) is not a sure-fire predictor of future academic success.

What does give children an advantage later on is the number and quality of words a child hears during childhood…through play, interaction with family members, walking down the street (or traveling to a faraway place) and discovering something new, as well as being read to.

Very interesting discussion thread!