Though I didn’t particularly enjoy teaching reading, the success of hearing my child read is a great milestone in my homeschooling. Reading, reading, reading to your child before he can read for himself is the most important pre-reading activity we can do to encourage our future readers. The same is true after completing the phonics program.

There are four types of reading I suggest for readers to encourage progress:

Reading Silently

Once my children read to themselves, we worked up to a full hour per day in one sitting. They read an hour, broken into shorter segments—four 15-minute sessions leading into three 20-minute sessions, and so on until they were reading the full 60 minutes.

It is important a child reads at her own comfort level when she reads to herself. This might be a level below her grade level. A child is reading comfortably when she giggles or groans or just has to tell you about something she’s just read while in the middle of the story.

She has read comfortably when she can tell us all about it after she’s closed the covers of the book. This is important because we want our children to enjoy reading. If they’re always reading at what I call a stretch level, reading is a chore and less enjoyable.

My children made their own reading choices. My oldest chose picture books or catalogs when I first removed her from private school, even though she knew how to read. I trusted she would gain confidence with time. She did. And, she is an excellent shopper today.

There was a time when only fiction seemed to be their preference. I began requiring they choose other genre for their reading at least a couple times a week or every third or fourth book.

Reading Aloud

A new or struggling reader needs to read aloud to you. It is tempting, though, to discontinue this practice once he can read to himself. Continue having your child read aloud to you on a regular basis.

stretch level is appropriate for reading aloud, which is drill work rather than reading for comprehension (The drill work will, however, improve comprehension in the long run.) This gives us an opportunity to introduce a more difficult reading level for short periods.

Reading aloud helps us hear whether or not our child is progressing and developing fluency. It lets us hear whether he pronounces his words correctly. It lets us hear a stop at a period or a question or an exclamation. It helps us encourage our child to read with feeling.

Even an older reader should be required to read to us periodically. Using the word correctly, my own daughter mispronounced the word genre for years. One day when I used the word, she exclaimed, “Oh! That’s how you say it.” I recommend that your older student at least read aloud the vocabulary list or words that are in bold print in a new chapter.

Reading With Our Child

There will come a time when it is no longer necessary to read with our child. In the early years, however, it provides a special time of enjoying reading together.

To be enjoyable, reading together must not become a lesson. If our child gets stuck on a word, we quickly pronounce it for her. Don’t require her to sound it out.

Stopping to work on a word causes us to lose the flow of comprehension. We want this reading to be as enjoyable for our child as when she reads comfortably to herself. Because our child is reading with us and we can help her over the rough spots, we can introduce a stretch level of reading.

Early on we may need to trade-off every other sentence, then progress to trading-off paragraphs, and on to pages or even chapters.

Reading to Our Child

There are academic benefits when we read to our children. For one, we are usually reading above their level and increasing their vocabulary. Besides, there is such great joy in sharing Jesus’ miracles, or the protagonist’s salvation in Teddy’s Button, or Heidi’s in the unabridged version. When we read to our children, one thing is sure, we share our values as we share a treasured story and sweet companionship.

Pleasure, progress, and shared principles are good reasons to continue reading with and to our children, and having them read to us and to themselves as they mature into great readers.

Copyright 2006. Bethany Bennett. Reprinted by CHEA of California with permission of the author.

Bethany Bennett served Christian Heritage School in Corona as a curriculum advisor and high school counselor for many years. She has been married to her husband Bob for 32 years. Bethany and Bob homeschooled their three daughters, graduating the youngest in 1996. Since then, Bethany has been teaching nieces and nephews, two of whom graduated in 2002. Bethany and Bob currently reside in Redding, California.