Teaching Your Kid To Read? You Might Be Screwing It Up!

[parenting][homeschooling] Here is the blog post I don't want to write but needs to be written (because I know there is at least one parent who needs to read this). ... YOU'RE SCREWING IT UP!

I heard an experienced homeschooler's advice today (she has four older kids whom she all homeschooled). She said all you have to do is read to them until they're seven. Another mom said she tried her advice: her child's only curriculum for the past two years was to read to him. She was happy to report that with absolutely no pressure from her, he just picked up a book and started reading it out loud today. He's seven. I thought, "Wow. That's cool." Then I thought, "Wait. Can it really be that simple?" I wouldn't know because that is very different than how I used to "teach my children to read".

And before you think you're the person I'm talking about - who needs to read this article - you're not ... It's me.

I'm the one who needs to read this article. Well, past me. I've made a lot of mistakes with my children, but especially with my oldest. (Sorry, Aria!) So, believe me ... it is with great discomfort that I share with you today ... How NOT to teach your child to read:

There's no one right way to teach your child to read. But I can tell you that there are several WRONG ways to "teach your child to read". The only wrong way to "teach your child to read" is to do things that slow down or reverse their progress. Here's a list on how to do that:

  • When they are reading really slowly, be really bored and frustrated and make sure you do something to let them know (Don't patiently wait as your gift from God persists on and pushes herself even though she's doing something that she's not good at yet.)
  • When they stop at a word or start sounding it out slower than you think they should, snap "I thought you knew this word!", "C'mon. You don't know this word?", or something along those lines
  • When they're reading and they read a word incorrectly, interrupt them by blurting out the correct word in an annoyed or patronizing tone of voice
  • When they get to a word and they look at you and say "I don't know this one", dismiss them by saying "Oh, yes you do!" (Whatever you do, don't ask them if they want you to tell them how to say it or if they want help sounding it out. They might actually learn something if you do that.)
  • Compare them to other children who know how to read better than they do; you can compare them to kids older than them, younger than them, related, or not related - really any child will do as long as you lead them to think they read better than them
  • (Related to previous "tip") Overly praise how well other children read in front of your struggling reader. Keep doing it whether it looks like it's making them uncomfortable or not - just make sure your motivation is to push them to read before they're ready
  • Constantly tell them to read things even though it clearly makes them uncomfortable (Definitely don't kindly ask to give them turns at reading books that you think they'd like and then be okay if they say "no", and read it to them if they want - they might feel loved or respected.)
  • Definitely feel the pressure to have your child reading at a certain age and be a perfectionist while you're at it too - that won't be damaging to their education or their relationship with you (or others!)
  • Let them hear you talk about how they're "struggling" at reading with other people; do it once or do it a lot - both are fine
  • Be really defensive when someone nice tries to give you a tip on how to help your child learn to read - or at least not slow their progress
  • Pressure them to read books that are "at their grade level" and about stuff that doesn't interest them
  • Make them finish a book even though they don't like it
  • ... If you think of another "tip", please comment below or email me. I can add it to this list anonymously. It might help some kid out there if you share it here for people who need to "get good".

Sigh, that was not fun to write. I wish I didn't make those mistakes BUT I don't regret it. Tonight for our bedtime story, I started (affiliate link) A Grain of Rice with the girls since my Sonlight curriculum instructor's guide showed me to read that one next. It looked like something Aria and Bailey would like to read so I asked them if they'd like to take turns reading it with me. Aria took me up on my offer and, while she may or may not be reading "at a third grade level", her reading sounded beautiful to me and I was so thankful to be in that moment with her and to have the opportunity to share in her learning with her. I told her, "I'm sorry for all the times I was mean to you when you were learning to read." You know what she said? She said, "That's okay. But, um, I don't remember that." My sweet girl. She doesn't even know that I held her back. She's learning to read well and confidently but she would've been so much further ahead if I avoided doing everything on that list up there. But like I said, I don't regret it. Because while she may never need to read or hear this, there is a mom who is gonna read this - hopefully sooner rather than later, but, as the saying goes, better late than never - and who will spare herself and her child the trouble that I and mine went through.


  1. It takes a lot of guts to share your mistakes as a parent. This post made me feel like I'm not alone in this motherhood/homeschool game.
    Great job!

    1. I'm so glad it helped you! It makes sharing it worth it <3

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