Posted by: angiefm | October 9, 2009

How We Teach Reading

I get asked this question a lot so have decided to quit stalling, bite the bullet and just write it up!  🙂


Alethea was what I think they call a “natural reader”.  She was taught the basic phonic sounds in preschool using the Letterland programme, and my mom, TC and I read to her a lot.  She loved books from a very early age and could sit through a good-sized stack at bedtime.  Then she seemed to figure it out herself and started “reading” at about 4 years and a bit.  Repetitive books.  Familiar books.

When she was 4 years and about 4 to 5 months, we had just started homeschooling and I was really clueless about what she was capable of doing.  Her school was then teaching the “at” word family.  You know – cat, hat, bat, etc.  And I had assumed that she was at that same level.  One morning, I was about to read the Bible to her but was a little slow to start, when she looked at the title and read “The Tabernacle”.  I was floored!  I had no idea she could read!  “Why didn’t you tell me you could read?”  I asked her.  “Because you didn’t ask,” was her reply.


Timothy was taught the phonic sounds using Letterland also, because it was the only thing I was familiar with, having seen Alethea’s teachers create activities around the Letterland characters and having followed all those parents’ guides the school sent back with her. 

I bought the Letterland First Reading Flashcards from Kinokuniya in Singapore together with some other Letterland books (which really weren’t that helpful).  It was a very easy programme to use and Tim picked up the basic 26 sounds and 5 long vowels effortlessly by the time he was 2 and a bit.  Then he hit a brick wall with the whole reading thing, not being able to go on to blending.  So we just left it.  Who needs to read at that age anyway, right?  🙂 

Then about a year later, I received a review copy of Reading Made Easy and decided to try it with him.  It really WAS easy!  🙂  By the time he was 4 he was decoding pretty rapidly, and before he was 5 he read the first chapter of Charlotte’s Web!


Nathalie had a later start.  We believe that a child should only learn to read when they show keen interest in wanting to do so.  Any earlier and it really is on OUR agenda, not theirs.  Which is why we are so crazy about books and reading aloud.  We believe our children must love, love, love to be read to and love books in general before they will have any motivation to want to learn to read on their own. 

Well … back to Nathalie.  She didn’t show any signs of wanting to learn to read till she was almost 4.  So we didn’t push it.  At that time, I had started bringing in Explode the Code to sell because it was a very much sought after programme among the homeschoolers, but I had never used it.  So I decided Nathalie would be my guinea pig.  *grin*  We used the Explode the Code Wall Chart and that was fun, then moved on to the Primer books.  She LOVED it.  Had always wanted to sit at the table and “do school” just like the older ones and this was her “work”.  She also had very good pen control, so writing was easy and fun for her.  (Tim’s pen control was very weak so we didn’t do any writing till he was past 5.)

Then Alethea and Tim started to use the Letterland characters to help her out from time to time which confused her totally because she had never “met” them, so I fished out the Letterland First Reading Cards again and taught her with those also.  She didn’t seem to be confused with the two different mnemonic systems for learning the sounds, so that worked out fine.

But I found that Explode the Code moved too slowly for my liking.  I wanted her to just focus on the reading and not get caught up with all the writing, colouring, drawing lines, circling etc.  So while I let her continue with Explode the Code for something to do during school, I took out our trusty and now rather dog-eared copy of Reading Made Easy and started her on that.  The first few lessons were a breeze because we were covering old ground, so we sped through them to figure out her real level. 

Then Valerie Bendt came out with the companion student activity books to the Reading Made Easy programme.  And it was perfect!  It gave Nathalie something workbook-ish to do which was totally in line with Reading Made Easy! 

Today we completed lesson 51 and it is all going well.  She is able to read fairly well, her sight word recognition is very good (there is daily repetition of sight words in the Reading Made Easy lessons) and she is decoding simple words fluently.  There are a total of 106 lessons in the book, and I remember that at this stage Timothy really took off with his reading and we skipped quickly through the rest of the book.  I don’t think Nathalie is at that stage yet, but I have no doubt that she will be reading fairly well by her 5th birthday in December.  🙂 

Ah … I love teaching our children to read.  It is so wonderful to see how it opens the world to them.  Alethea and Timothy are highly motivated readers (most of the time, though sometimes a little prodding is needed to get them to take their books off the shelf to read), and Nathalie is chipping in a lot now when I read to her. 

What I Would Personally Do

I often get emails asking for advice on what to buy.  Here is what I would do if i had to do it all over again (which I will have to do in a few years’ time with Daniel!  What fun!  :D)

I would start with Letterland if the child expresses interest in learning to read at a very young age.  Like 2-ish or 3-ish years old.  I would use the First Reading Flashcards to teach the 26 basic phonic sounds and the 5 long vowels. 

Once they have mastered that, I would move to Reading Made Easy.  In the first few lessons, this Valerie Bendt programme has the child blend and recognise some sight words, so they can start reading short sentences already.  It is a great boost for the child to realise that they are already “reading”! 

If the child has good pen control, I would add the Reading Made Easy student workbooks to supplement and reinforce the learning.  If they are more kinesthetic, I would follow Valerie’s instructions to make cards to play with during the lessons.  I haven’t yet done that.  Too lazy.  Ha ha.

Readers – the great thing about the Reading Made Easy programme is that you won’t have to buy supplementary readers.  The readers are built into the programme.  By the time your child completes the programme, they should be able to read the “I Can Read” type books at a level 3 or 4, which is at independent reading level.

The other thing I do is to separate reading instruction from reading for pleasure.  When we start on formal reading instruction, our kids know that they need to be attentive and do their reading lessons well for the 10 or 15 mins a day.  But all other reading during the day we do for pleasure and there is no pressure on them to read during those times.  I can imagine how annoying it must be for a child who is trying to enjoy a story, for the reading to be paused every now and then for them to try and figure out a word or two.  It breaks the momentum and the spoils the joy of reading for sheer pleasure.

Other Recommendations

There are of course other reading programmes out there like Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Phonics Pathways, Explode the Code, etc.  And many many many others.  So do your research and you will find one that will work for you and your kids!

Happy Reading!



  1. Since you sell it in your store, why don’t you show the DVD flashcards to your baby?

    • Er … the flashcards are in Chinese! 🙂 Ha ha.

      • Hah – so you DO show the Chinese ones to baby? There IS the English DVD flashcards too! Then I made the Lessons 5 & 6 into little books for the baby as reinforcement.

  2. Oh, and I for one, was the skeptical one, but I’m sold.

  3. I love Explode the Code for Ruth. Teaches her to read, write and spell all in one book! Bao ka liao! 🙂

    • Yes, and the great thing about having a workbook is that they can DIY and leave you alone for a spell! 😀

  4. Hi ladies, do you have time to share with me more over the phone pls?

  5. […] read.  But I won’t today.    Instead you can hop over to an older post on my other blog here to read about it if you are keen.  Here I will focus (that’s a difficult thing for me to do, […]

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