Learning to Read - An Everyday Story

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There seems to be two distinctly different approaches to learning to read and write; a whole-language approach and a skills-based approach.

I think there are strengths to both approaches; the whole-language approach sees children learning to read and write through being immersed in a print-rich environment; allowing a child’s desire to learn to read and write to develop naturally.

The skills-based approach explicitly teaches decoding strategies; teaching children how to decipher printed words through phonics and spelling rules.

Sequencing Letters using a Geoboard | An Everyday StoryWe try to take a balanced approach; explicitly teaching decoding strategies whilst being surrounded by a print-rich environment.

I’ve read arguments in favour of a whole-language approach which say when we teach a child a word, like ‘shirt’ for example, we don’t explain the different parts of a shirt (the sleeves, buttons, collar), we simply say ‘shirt’ and therefore learning to read and write should be taught in much the same way; not by teaching phonics and spelling rules rather through a rich culture of reading.

vegetable stones 2However I think there is a difference between how children learn to speak and how they learn to read and write. I think we are to an extent, biologically programmed to acquire language, and so all typically-developing children will learn to speak.

However I think learning to read and write is cultural; societal, and so while I believe a language-rich environment plays an enormous role in helping our children become literate, I also think children benefit from exposure to direct language instruction.

Journal writing | Kindergarten Literacy Ideas from An Everyday Story

Here are some of the ways we are supporting language development in our child-led homeschool.

Kindergarten Literacy:

Alphabet Flashcards - An Everyday StoryWriting with HWT blocks - An Everyday StoryHomeschool Kindergarten Literacy Resources :

Trovato Landscapes spreadBooks: First Readers

Books: Reference

Online Resources:

  • The Story Box Library – an incredible resource of beautiful Australian books retold by everyday and well-known Australians.
  • The Australian Curriculum – handy for seeing what skills are introduced during the Kindergarten (Foundation) year in schools

I’ll continue adding to this page as the year progresses.

11 Replies to “Literacy”

  1. From the research I have done, I chose the phonics/sounding out theory with sight word recognition of words that defied the phonics rules or were easier memorized i.e. the words: wild, through, enough, pony etc. Lots of sight word lists available to download. Teachers said that children who were taught decoding skills had a greater vocabulary and studies I researched showed that sight recognition approach eventually capped at several thousand words and the older child reached only a limited vocabulary potential…so in the long run 80% or greater of what I read endorsed the phonics and breaking down words theory. My granddaughter just completed kindergarten this year and she was one of the top 3 readers in her class. She continually amazes me yet today with the words she can read..she is currently reading at a 2nd grade level she reads (and comprehends books like Ramona Quimby, Bunnicula, and Fancy Nancy )

    1. As a education expert, I feel you are right on target. Our written language has a mixture of sight words and phonics. Balancing is the key to help your child with reading. Then the sky is the limit!

  2. I find you blog so inspiring and very often inline with my thoughts. I’m wondering if you ever get any resistance from your children to participate in the activities and how you work through that. I have a 5.5yr old son who would be in prep in Qld this year but we are just starting our homeschooling journey very gently. He is rather resistant to any writing or drawing at this time and I don’t want to force him or make learning miserable. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. I would also be very interested in this, Kate. I love looking at what you do with your children, but my four year old son rarely seems interested in doing anything like this! He loves his projects, but literacy or maths activities are ignored or done with many sighs…

  3. Love this Kate. Very helpful… given me lots to thinking about as the school I taught at used a very structured phonics based method of teaching spelling and reading based on the Spalding method. And it worked! But I also see my 4 year old teaching herself to read without that formal instruction so love just having a word rich environment!! Where learning can happen naturally and at her pace and interest! 🙂 Thanks for sharing – need to get my hands on some corkboard to do that alphabet pin board dot to dot!! So fun! 🙂

  4. I often think emergent readers don’t get enough time to spend with books at their skill level and that’s when frustration/resistance begins. Books can become difficult quickly for kids who don’t devour books naturally. Reading A – Z is a fantastic set of books that focuses a lot of time on the emergent reader. Even hesitant readers can become confident through repetition of 25 books at level aa. For older students (I teach middle school students on the autism spectrum) they are age respectful and full of important language concepts. (samples to browse here: )
    Pros: you print them out of your printer! Print out only what you find interesting or what your child needs. The books are research based, leveled, it is easy to assess your child’s reading level and contains at least 20 books on each level–you can spend a lot of time working on the specific skills your child needs (i.e. 1:1 correspondence, directionality, concepts of print and books). I also like the mix of photographs and drawings, fiction, non-fiction, biography, science books, etc. Levels aa, A, B, C, D are US KG level, and onward. If you haven’t taught a lot of reading the lesson plans break down exactly what type of reading skill the child needs to master before moving up.
    Cons: once you get through level D the stories become sort of blah. I don’t do much with the worksheets–they have that busywork vibe.

    1. Thanks for your insights bfearly … I’ve looked at the website and the aa level books my son has tried in other similar publications but he finds the themes and characters extremely boring – they do not hold his interest and he switches off and then won’t continue. … My son was talking in full sentences by age two and his speech and comprehension and vocabulary is far beyond his years, so to him the beginner readers are very boring and I’m struggling to think of ways to match his oral skills with resources for a beginner reader. … Anymore ideas from anyone greatly appreciated. 🙂

  5. Find a higher level book than the boring basic ones… one that interests him. Go over some general new vocabulary words with him that appear throughout the story…like character names or subject words that can be found many times throughout the book and go over them with him…like maybe 5 words. Then mark the number of pages that you think he can read without being overwhelmed and mark them with a colored peel off sticky note or a colored paperclip etc. i.e. maybe 2 or 3 pages depending on the amount of words on each page….too many pages to read get to be a chore and tire them out. write on cards any unfamiliar words that are beyond his sounding out ability or his ability to figure out from the illustrations. make a simple hand drawn picture by each of these words that will be found on the pages he will read. when he comes to a “hard” word he can look at his “helper cards” with the pictures and find the one that matches the word he is trying to read and hopefully the fact you have gone over these words before reading the pages and the fact they are :illustrated” will help him remember them and read them. Thusly, he is reading at a more difficult level than he would normally be capable of, but the content is more mature to compliment his reading interests.

    1. Oh my gosh! Thank you Lisa! … Intuitively, just last week, I had started picking out words from his Star Wars books for him to find on each page – he is Star Wars crazy right now – I will try extending this for him with your suggestions. Thank you.

  6. Hi! Thanks for including our books in this post! I found that the concepts in the earliest readers were often so condescending to bright children. That’s why we started with artists and rich ideas, but kept the structure simple. I love exposing children who are just learning to read to real art and interesting ideas. I also find the discussion of whole language versus phonics is interesting. I think when whole language is taught well it includes lots of phonics. It is not systematic, but based on what each child needs- and that’s why I think it works so well for the home educator. We also just finished some videos for parents of the beginning reader. We would love to share that with you. It is free on our website.

  7. I first taught DD all the letter sounds and then she began the ‘Songbirds’ readers by Julia Donaldson. I saw them mentioned somewhere and thought she might like them because she loves all her other books, the Gruffalo, etc. When she started them her reading just took off. Being able to actually read a book herself gave her so much confidence and she just wants to read more and more. The pictures are really interesting to her and she loves looking through new stories and seeing what clues she can get about the storyline from the pictures before reading them.

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