Have y’all seen all the crazy requirements of Kindergarteners now? It’s as if K is the new 1st or maybe even 2nd. My 2nd and 3rd kids have been unschooled their whole lives minus a couple months in public school as per their request. I always read to them. I answered any questions they had about what certain words were. If they asked how to spell something I spelled it for them. But if I do all these things for them then however will they learn to read by themselves?! I’m assuming that’s what you are wondering, right?
I had a couple hiccups along the way and I did try 2 different learning programs with them. I tried 100 Easy Lessons. Hahahaha!! That was awful. I’m sure it works just fine for many but not in our house. We got through 3 lessons then I listed it on Ebay. Then I tried Spell To Read and Write which cost me a few hundred dollars. I was confident it would work! It was better; more thorough. It even had a section for teaching cursive. But, my kids who were interested in learning cursive already taught themselves, so I suppose that part was pointless. After a few weeks, we ended up just playing the phonics games. My kids actually enjoyed those and asked to play them most days. Still, daily phonics play only lasted about 4 months.
I finally came to realize that I was doing these programs with my kids not for their benefit, but for my own. It’s very hard to let go of the ways of public school, especially since it worked for me. I always enjoyed school and did very well. I knew I still had more work to do on myself at this point. Unschooling isn’t just about the kids; it’s about us, as parents, letting go and learning how to trust ourselves and others. We went back to just letting them do their thing, or not. They played Minecraft all the time and were always figuring out words there. They read menus when we went out to eat, street signs, reading short books to their siblings, reading pokemon cards and the list goes on. They were thriving and happy. But, they still weren’t reading much for length on their own.
They were 6 and 7 and now past the age of most kids who have been taught to read in school. Their school friends were reading but not them. This was sometimes hard for me to watch but my kids were happy! Their school friends always complained about reading but not my kids. My kids were still eager to pick out books and have me read them. They were still eager to try to decipher words.
Finally, about 7 months ago reading clicked for them both. My daughter was just over 9 and my son had just turned 8. We went to Target one day and as we looked around they saw the book section and headed over. I told them they could each pick out a book. After a few minutes they both had their choices. They had chosen books that I thought were much too difficult for their level but I didn’t say that. They were excited so I was fully prepared to read the books to them.
When we got home they both sat down with their books. I told them I would be over to help as soon as I put the groceries away. They told me not to worry about it. I was slightly taken aback and a bit confused. Every few minutes one of them would spell a word and ask me what it said and I would tell them quickly without questioning. Over the next week they continued their books with very minimal help from me. They were telling me what the books were about too so I knew they were indeed reading.
Now, they are reading books incredibly fast. My son can read a 100 page book in a day or two. They are above grade level with reading. They are happy to read and they WANT to read frequently! I fully attribute this to them having the opportunity to read what they want when they want and me helping them with no pressure.
I’ve spoken to other parents who have gone down this type of reading road with their kids. We all will tell you the same thing. We don’t really know when it happens or how. It’s almost like watching this amazing magic trick.
If you haven’t read my post called My Journey To Unschool then please go check it out now. You’ll get to see how this reading experience was completely different from my oldest son and how the two approaches have impacted them.
So, why is it that 14% of adults can’t read? There are a lot of things at play. When I say that I didn’t teach my kids to read that doesn’t mean that I didn’t support them with reading. Guidance, support and a rich environment are so important to truly inspire a love of reading.
In our country we have a large portion of the population in which both parents work or the parents are divorced. Oftentimes, these children aren’t getting as much support at home with their education since these parents may be working a lot so they can take care of their children’s basic needs. They are doing the best they can but sometimes aren’t left with enough time in the day to help their kids with homework, read with them or take them to the library. Of course, there are also the households in which the children simply aren’t taken good care of. We can also point to the education system. There are too many parts of our country that have very poor schools that lack the support needed to help all of the kids succeed and, of course, there is the one-size-fits-all public school philosophy. We can talk about all the kids who wind up getting in trouble with the law and land in juvenile detention. The education of those children suffers. There are also kids who have learning disorders that go unnoticed which may hinder their ability to learn to read. Those 14% were not supported well enough on their road to reading.
So, if you choose to not teach your kids to read then make sure you are providing them with a rich environment. Take them to the library. Read to them often. Simply answer them when they ask you what a word is instead of trying to get them to figure it out. With the right support, kids can absolutely teach themselves to read.