Encouragement and Confidence about Reading

Both my kids learned to read, effortlessly, with zero instruction beyond a few Sesame Street episodes and me reading and spelling anything they wanted me to. They get historical references. They have large vocabularies. My daughter reads novels for fun now.

Maya, at "Perspective: Looking back, looking around", 2014

I am bubbling about this....
My 10 year old hard of hearing son, who I was told would never learnt to read by osmosis cos of his hearing loss is reading! He learnt from Runescape and his Xbox he plays daily. He read off the screen to me today cos he wanted to tell me what it said. I had grief over this from our LA ( I am in the UK) and relatives. I was told he needed specialist reading schemes. I wavered and bought one then got rid of it the same day. I inwardly worried and fretted but kept reading here and I learnt to trust him and it worked. It could have been now or in another six years but it has clicked and he is so happy. He isn't my first unschooled child and they can all read too so my surprise is a bit ott really but the others don't have his difficulties with hearing sounds but he figured it himself.

(in Yorkshire, who posted this in April 2009, in the Family Unschoolers Network forum)

Notes: LA stands for "Local Authority," and ott is "over the top."

Here's a partial list (what I can remember!) of things that my two reading children played with right before and while they were figuring out how to read:
Mad Libs
Yu-Gi-Oh cards
Baseball cards
Dream Life plug-in video game
Pokemon games on the Gameboy
Popstar magazine (and other "tween" magazines that focus on Radio Disney/Disney Channel performers)
I read for them as needed, then suddenly I realized they were reading these things without me. I've been amazed at how quickly reading progresses when they're ready — one of my kids went from barely reading to reading Harry Potter and the Little House books in what seemed like overnight.

My 2nd child also wrote a lot before she could read but after she did know the letters (and she continues to write now after breaking the code). So she'd ask how to spell each word.

I had made the mistake of doing a bit of "100 Easy Lessons" with my first child, so he attributed some of his reading to that (boring!) book, which was unfortunate — particularly since we had put it away at least a year before.

Kathleen Whitfield
in SoCal

[Karen Tucker's great advice to the mom of a "nearly 7 year old"]
I suggest gently encouraging him and holding the firm belief that his brain will develop to the point of learning to read, and believing that only then will he read. Reading, like learning to ride a bike or being a father or being responsible enough to stay home by yourself, is a "some day" kind of thing.

As in, "some day" you'll be able to jump and touch the top of the door frame. "Some day" you'll be able to ride your bike the store by yourself. "Some day" you'll be able to cook dinner for the family.

It's a hopeful and matter-of-fact way of looking at it. Recognizing that the brain develops as the body does, and not every body develops at the same rate; nor does every brain. His body and brain are changing and developing and he's different than anyone else. Some read later, some earlier. He *will* read. When he's ready.

Pass this idea on to him. He could be lamenting that he can't touch the top of the door frame by jumping. Start by jumping to touch the top of the fence, the net on the basketball goal, the edge of the stop sign on the corner. My eldest son, at 6, cried because he didn't have as many trophies as his dad did. "But you will, son. You will." (He did.)

My youngest son just happened to learn to read at 7. Having discovered unschooling when he was a baby, I'd never had anything but confidence in his ability to learn the things he wanted to learn when his developing brain and body were ready. He grew up with that reality. I don't believe that's why he learned at 7 over any other age. But I believe that's why he never had any anxiety about it or frustration that he couldn't do it, yet.

Be hopeful and encouraging. Don't focus on the can't. Focus on the will.


We've used "someday you will" or "you just don't yet" about all kinds of things, from reading to caring about the opposite sex to foods. Holly doesn't like green chile yet. She figures she will ("When my taste buds die" she jokes), because her brothers didn't used to and now they do. Kirby lately started liking mushrooms. Marty still doesn't like spinach yet, but we haven't branded him "a spinach hater," and I don't think anyone should consider a child "a non-reader," just one who "doesn't read yet."

Back to other stories of learning to read naturally

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