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Learning to read

I'm concerned because of her age (9) and I don't know how to get her to read.


If a lot of her experience over the past several years has equated books with hard work and things she didn't want to read, then it would help to change your goal from getting her to read to making sure her experience with printed material is enjoyable.


How about reading to her? Just drop expecting her to read. Make reading a fun, warm, snuggly activity that you do together. Put on books on tape in the car. Watch movies that are based on books. Get her magazine subscriptions that deal with things she enjoys. (Lots of video game loving kids have learned to read from video games and gaming guides. The guides themselves are at a higher level than young kids would be challenged with in school.)


Sandra Dodd has collected stories about learning to read naturally including lots of comforting tales of later readers.


9 isn't late. Really. 9 is only a problem in school where the curriculum is set up so that it will only accommodate kids who can read independently by 4th grade. The goal of having kids read by 9 doesn't meet the kids' needs. It meets the schools' needs. "Problem readers" are only problems because the school needs them to read before they're ready. And then the pressure to do something they can't yet, the humiliation at not being able to do things "everyone else" can, does create real problems with self-esteem and confidence.


Just because most kids walk around 12 mos doesn't mean a child who doesn't walk then is cause for worry. Some kids don't walk until they're 18 mos. Not reading at 9 is perfectly within normal range for kids.



What did you make available or do with your child to help them learn to read? I keep hearing about playing games, putting labels on furniture. I have asked my 7 yo son if he would like to do that. He says "no".


First, I wouldn't have asked. I would have just done. Labeling things is more of a strewing thing than a game. It's just something in their environment that they can look at or not according to their interest.


Second, if he's feeling pressured to read then the fewer things you do that will feel like ways to get him to learn to read the better. Make your goal be pleasant experiences with print rather than figuring out ways to get him to read. :-) When kids are feeling pressure and worry from us to do something, even if that pressure is unconscious and we think we're hiding the worry, they tend to pull back. It would be like if your husband bought you a wok and really really wanted you to use it. Every "What are you making for dinner?" would feel like "Are you going to use the wok?" A wok cookbook wouldn't feel like a gift but more pressure to use the wok.


But getting back to the games: games are helpful if the child is interested. They're just another opportunity for a child to do something he's interested in. If he isn't interested in reading then a reading game is equivalent to a workbook.


The only thing I really did with my daughter was read to her. There were occasional movies based on books and lots of books on tape that were more opportunities to realize that reading could unlock all sorts of stories for her. Mostly the opportunities that she's taken up for reading on her own are Garfield comics, Super Diaper baby books, instructions on video games, gaming guides and gaming magazines. As far as I can tell at 11 she can read anything but is still overwhelmed by dense text and prefers pictures.


What does he like to do? Can you try out some magazines based around his interests from your library to see if it would be worth subscribing? Some magazines will send out a sample copy.


A homeschooling friend has shared that she feels we need to teach the basics then unschool them.


Your friend is wrong. If she's never experienced a child who learned to read or do math without instruction then of course she's not going to be able to imagine it's possible.


It will come when he's ready. Being a boy it could be he'll be ready later than you might feel comfortable about.



So what does a child need to learn to read at home in a natural environment?


They need positive experiences with reading. They need access to things they'd want to read. They need reading to be either joyful or useful to them. They need ways of getting answers to their questions. They need the freedom and ability to find their own balance of those things.


The unschooling parents' role is to be attuned to what the child is asking for (rather than what the experts say the child needs.) They should be attuned to what interests the child, spontaneously pointing out the types of things the child asks about, while also being aware of how much of that the child wants.



Joyfully Rejoycing
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