Reading doesn't come naturally to everyone, but it's essential that everyone learn to do it well. Every subject your children undertake in their careers as students will depend on their ability to read, so laying the foundation of a thorough understanding of how it works ought to be one of the first tasks you (the parent and teacher) look to in their education.
Like most skills, getting good at reading simply requires one to read a lot. Practice may not make you perfect, but it certainly will make you consistently better than you have been. So the best way to raise kids who are proficient readers (and love to read, even when they don't have to) is to keep them well supplied with books.
At the same time, it's important to know the rules that govern the language. Without them, no sense of order exists, and students are left with vocabularies only as large as their capacity for memorization. With the phonetic rules in place in their minds, however, they'll be able to read almost any word they encounter, and probably have a pretty good idea what it means.
Most reading resources are directed toward parents and teachers. A perennial favorite among homeschoolers is Margaret Bishop's The ABCs and All Their Tricks, which is basically a compendium of the phonics rules for teachers. Ruth Beechick's A Home Start in Reading is more a philosophy of reading instruction, with plenty of excellent and sometimes surprising strategies for teachers and students.
Those books designed for students tend to be drill-oriented. The Victory Drill Book includes lists of words grouped by phonetic sound which kids master before moving on to paragraph reading. Reading Pathways includes a number of reading exercises to improve kids' fluency (the ability to read quickly and efficiently while retaining information). In the same vein but for younger students, Phonics Pathways provides exercises to build solid spelling and decoding skills.
Books that turn reading into a game of sorts, offer written exercises or activities, and put reading in the context of other subjects can all be useful. The goal of reading resources isn't so much to teach reading (that's what phonics programs are for), as to make sure kids who can already read learn to read better and more effectively.
Again, the best way to achieve this is to have your kids read. If they like science, get them age-appropriate books about animals and plant life; if they like adventure stories, get them some classic fiction; if they like history, find titles they can handle about the Civil War or the Magna Charta. Make sure they know the basic rules, but let them loose with some books and you'll be surprised how quickly their skills improve.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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