By Shannon Cannon

      Helping a child learn to read is one of the most rewarding things about being a mother. As I sit with my five-year-old on my lap and help her sound out words like "did" or "inasmuch", while her brother and sisters cheer her on, there is just this joy and feeling of fulfillment I don't get any other way.

      But there are two ways to go about teaching reading. One involves lots of drilling complicated rules of phonics, lots of practicing sight words, lots of pushing and prodding. The other involves lots of reading -- reading stuff that's important to the child, reading to the child, reading with the child, reading next to the child, reading about the child -- you get the picture. If a child struggles with reading, they are often tutored and drilled to the point that reading becomes drudgery and a chore and that idea can last a lifetime.

      Jacques Barzun said, "It is a proud thing to say you have taught someone, and a wise one not to specify what". To me this means that although in your mind you may be teaching reading, what the child may be learning instead is that reading is not fun and something that you only do when someone gives you points, candy or grades. There is a saying that says that a person who won't read is no better than a person who can't read. In our culture we have this misconception that if a child isn't reading fluently by the time they are 8, they are behind. We panic. We push. We worry that they will never become a doctor like they were supposed to so that they could support us in our old age. Anyway, all I am saying is that if we begin by allowing the child to see the joy and fun and excitement of reading on all kinds of levels, we can avoid that pushing because they will come to it motivated, ready and able to learn. I am sure that some may disagree, but if children can read but won't because they have learned to hate it, is that really better in the end?

      On a lighter note, here are some activities for O week.

      • Talk about the meaning of the word occupation and then find pictures in a magazine of several different occupations. Set up stations and pretend to work in some of the occupations, then talk about what the children want to be when they grow up.

      • Put olives on all of your fingers and play 5 little monkeys with the olives. This is one of the two reasons that they make olives, so don't miss this activity.

      • Read a book about an octopus (such as The Tickle Octopus or My Very Own Octopus). Talk about what fun things you could do with eight legs. Make up your own story about an octopus, then make an octopus puppet by attaching legs (cut from material scraps) to an old sock and drawing a face on the end of the sock. Have fun acting out your story.

      • Hold your own Olympics. Include running, jumping, swinging, gymnastics, and obstacle course races and make sure you give out medals and sing the national anthem (or the favorite song) of the winner while standing on platforms (or stools) of different levels.

      • With construction paper, cut out the ingredients for your own paper omelet; stir the eggs, mix in peppers, onions, ham, or whatever else you want in your omelet. Then make a real omelet.

      • Put together an orange collage by cutting objects that are orange out of magazines and gluing them onto orange paper.

      • Listen to a recording of an orchestra and have the children listen for the different instruments. Make several "instruments" and have your own orchestra. Pretend to play to the recording with pretend instruments or the ones you have made.

      When you are teaching a new sound, it is a good idea to have something the child can associate the sound with. For the letter A, it might be an apple. For the letter O, we use the word 'opera', not because we've ever actually been to one or because we even really know what they are, but it is fun to sing the short 'O' sound in an opera singer's voice at the top of your lungs. And yes, my poor children are subjected to this kind of punishment quite frequently.


Few things in life are more fun and rewarding than curling up on the couch with your kids and a good book. If you truly want your kids to learn to read well, then READ TO THEM EVERY DAY! There is no better way to teach your kids that reading is fun and interesting.
Click here to see a list of ALL the books we have read to our children.

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