A lot of parents seem to forget there's plenty they can teach their children before the kiddos know how to read. New information equals new vocabulary and thinking skills, excellent foundations for learning to read and ones you can impart before your kids actually pick up a book. Which, Beechick suggests, is a pretty good indication of when to start teaching reading—there's no law that says four-year-olds need to read, and chances are instruction will be easier and more effective if you wait till your children show interest.
This approach is wholly organic and fairly unconventional. Beechick seems to delight in dropping surprise statements, like telling us kids don't need to know the names of letters to be able to read words. She stresses beginning the reading instruction process by identifying individual sounds, then moving on to blends and whole words. After sounds are mastered the decoding process begins; this stage introduces phonics (but not necessarily the rules of phonics, just the ideas) and is by far the most difficult period.
The final step, what Beechick calls "fluency," is often overlooked. Because the primary purpose of reading is to gain knowledge and information, many parents start assigning difficult (and serious) books as soon as their kids have the basics down. It's important, however, to allow them to consolidate their knowledge before moving on to harder material, and simply to let them read, read, read. Obviously there comes a point when Johnny needs to stop reading easy books and stretch himself, but that doesn't need to happen right away.
Known for her extremely practical approach to education, Beechick's ideas for teaching reading rely heavily on common sense and simple parent/child relationship rather than scientific theories or involved instructional philosophies. She breaks the reading process into five distinct stages (see below) and guides parents through their implementation as straightforwardly as possible. Letter-sound charts and ideas for gauging students' progress are included, as are reminders that reading is a gateway to learning and deserves to be taught correctly the first time.
Step 1: Pre-reading
Should you start reading as early as possible or delay until later? How do you know the right time for your child? What teaching can you do while waiting?
Step 2: Beginning
This is how to start easy in phonics, and how to make it fun.
Step 3: Blending
Accomplish this crucial step and all the rest will be a downhill ride.
Step 4: Decoding
Here, at last, is the main part that people think is teaching reading. It includes directions for phonics and essential sight words, as well as writing and spelling that should happen during this step.
Step 5: Fluency
This is a necessary but often neglected step. Allow time for lots of easy reading instead of pushing relentlessly forward.