We can come to a place of comfort when we teach our child to read without curriculum. It might seem like we’re about to jump off a cliff, but in real life, you have taught your child most of what they know up until now, and teaching them to read is just as natural and beautiful as all the other things you have taught them.
Readiness matters. Easy way to determine readiness: if your child cries and gets really frustrated when you try to show them things, probably not ready. If they stare at you blankly, probably not ready. But that doesn’t mean you just stop trying! It just means that you only do as much as you can without frustrating them. Relationship first.
But what do you actually DO?
With pre-readers, much of teaching to read is tactile, and includes a lot of snuggling and silliness. In the last post I gave the example of pointing to letters and talking about their shapes and sounds as you read a story. Tactile can be simply physical touch while new ideas are explored, but it can also mean that we spend time talking about letters and sounds with our hands and even the rest of our body. Use lego or playdough or wikki stix ,slices of bread or smarties, cooked noodles, sand, rice or whatever the heck you want to create letters and an opportunity to present them.
It can start as simply as drawing in sand or flour, or rolling our long snakes of playdough and making a face…then adding, “look I can make your name!” Draw or build letters out of your material to make their own name. If they stare blankly, just talk it through. “These are letters and they make your name.” It doesn’t matter if you go further than that, if you say it every day in two weeks or two years (depending on the age and propensity of the child) they will put together the idea the these shapes mean something, represent sound, and add up to words. Very personal words to begin with, like their own name.
We cover a lot of a child’s love language when we teach this way. Physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation. If we present them with small tokens of love and fun along the way, we also cover gifts and acts of service. When they start to show interest in letters, we can offer to cut their sandwich into an “A” or line up raisins to make a “B” – it all adds up to love, food, mommy time and silliness. All the things on the bucket list of every toddler and preschooler in existence.