“As a parent, I like to give my child gifts. The gift may be a simple gesture such as a hug or words of praise. Other times the gift is more elaborate. The longed for doll, which my daughter saved the money for, but the amount saved would not be enough to meet the ordering deadline. However, on Christmas morning, it was the last gift discovered behind the tree. I believe it is only natural that parents desire to give their child gifts. One of the greatest gifts you can give you child is the gift of “literacy” by teaching your child to read.
During the fall of 2001, our daughter began to “cue” my husband and I that reading aloud to her was not enough. She had been introduced to the printed word in infancy, was read to several times each day, had learned the Alphabet Song, and was speaking in full sentences by the time she was a year old. When she began to point to the words at the bottom of the page in her picture books, we took the hint and decided it was time to begin teaching her how to read. During my second grade year, I had taught my six year old cousin how to read. Subsequently, the following year, I had taught “remedial reading” skills to my nine year old cousin. So how hard could it be to teach my own child how to read?
I had recently read through Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning which I began to peruse on this particular topic. “The first association children should make with each letter of the alphabet is with its sound, not its name.” (1) Based on what I had read, I made alphabet cards using 3×5 inch blank recipe cards and a red marker. I had read in Glen Doman’s book,How to Teach Your Baby to Read that young children visualize the letters better if they are written in the color red. The next step was the implementation of what Karen refers to as the “Three Period Lesson” in Ch. 20 of A Charlotte Mason Companion. The three-period lesson was developed by Edouard Seguin, a French physician who worked with special-needs children in France and the United States during the late 19th century. He discovered ways to increase children’s cognitive abilities and believed in the importance of developing their self-reliance and independence. Seguin’s writings were a major inspiration to Maria Montessori and the source of many of her practical ideas. (2) In comparing this concept with Charlotte’s teachings in Part V “Lessons as Instruments of Education” in her book Home Education, I found Seguin’s and Montessori’s approach coincided with Charlotte’s teachings.
“The Three Period Lesson” is a tool by which allows you to see your child’s knowledge of a particular concept. The lesson is divided into three parts: Naming (Introduction), Recognizing (Identification), Remembering (Cognition.) During Period One, I would show my daughter three alphabet cards which had a picture of the letters “A,” “B,” and “C,” on them. I would say to my daughter, “This letter makes the sound “a.” Say “a” with me. This letter makes the sound “bee.” Say “bee.” This letter makes the sound “see.” Say “see” with me. For Period Two I would place the three letter cards on our kitchen table in a mixed up order. I would call out, “Find the letter which makes the sound ‘a’.” “Find the letter which makes the sound ‘bee’.” Find the letter which makes the sound ‘see’.” In Period Three I would place the alphabet cards in the order of “A, B, C” in front of my daughter. I would then point to each letter individually and ask her, “What sound does this letter make?” Our daughter enjoyed the short, “Three Period Lesson” which became known as “The Alphabet Game.” I began this game with the vowels and progressed to consonants. Simultaneously, while spending time outdoors in the sandbox, I would draw a letter in the sand, take my daughters finger and help her trace the letter, while at the same time pronouncing the sound the letter makes and then naming the letter.
Once the sounds and letter names of the alphabet were learned, we moved on to learning sight words. As mentioned previously, I had written the names of sight words on blank 3×5 recipe cards in red marker. I followed the same outline as before for the “Three Period Lesson” to teach her sight words. After sight words were mastered, I began to construct sentences for our daughter to read. Sometimes the sentences would be simple, other times they would be silly and nonsensical.
So far, our adventure in learning to read was going well. However, I knew the next step would be to begin phonics instruction. After seriously perusing the library catalogue, I checked out three
phonics resources. The first resource was the popular phonics program which was laid out in the form of a game. After spending two hours a day for five days during my daughter’s naptime trying to figure the resource out, I put it to the side. The second resource I pulled out of the library bag was based on the concept of teaching your child to read the easy way. After reading through the first couple of lessons and attempting to decipher the complicated notation system, I put it to the side. The final resource I pulled from the library bag was Alpha-Phonics by Samuel L. Blumenfeld. The resource was simple, yet direct. Learning to recognize a letter by sound and sight is taught first, then the blending of letter sounds follows. Review sentences using the words taught provided extra reinforcement for the budding reader. During the next nine months, for ten to fifteen minutes each day, my daughter and I went through the lessons in Alpha-Phonics. By the time she reached her second birthday, our daughter was reading from the Dr. Seuss “I Can Read It All By Myself ” Beginner Book Series. Through the years her taste in books has evolved from Fox in Socks, Madeline, Miss Rumphius, Judy Blume’s The Fudge Books, The Swiss Family Robinson to this summer’s selection of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.
I truly believe the most important gift you as a parent can give your child is the “gift” of literacy. Teaching your child to read is easy. All it takes is commitment, dedication and perseverance from both the parent and child on a daily basis. I would like to leave you with a quote from Charlotte Mason which I have found to be a source of inspiration throughout the years. “A child has not begun his education until he has acquired the habit of reading to himself, with interest and pleasure, books fully on a level with his intelligence.” (3)
1. Andreola, Karen, A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning, United States of America: Charlotte Mason Research and Supply, 1998.
2. Jane M. Jacobs, The Three-Period Lesson, Montessori Services.com, 2013
3. Mason, Charlotte, The Original Homeschooling Series Home Education , United States of America: Tyndale House, 1989.
(This article first appeared on the Beautiful Feet Books Blogspot July 31, 2015.)