Thursday, March 31, 2011

Teaching Your Baby or Child to Read

For the typical population, and some kids w/T21, I prefer teaching them to read phonetically. But, for most children w/T21, I recommend teaching them to recognize and read whole words, otherwise known as "sight words" (even though that's really a misnomer, we'll use that phrase here anyway). Teaching kids to read sight words skips the whole, mentally taxing, "working out" process of learning to read by sounding each letter out and figuring out the word. Learning sight words gives kids a jump start. Once your child learns to read by sight alone, you want to make sure to go through the phonetics process with him so that he will eventually learn how to decode words as well. Otherwise, your child will only be able to read the words that he has been taught and may be stumped by a new word that is introduced. Decoding is an important skill and one you definitely want your child to possess. 

In this post, you'll find Jett's Reading Milestones for inspiration, step by step instructions as to how he learned to read and various resources.

Jett's Reading Milestones

Here you can see Jett's Reading Readiness at 16 Months.

At 17 months, Jett started sight reading and he learned new words everyday!

At 18 months old (Sept. 5, 2011) after Kindermusik, I was talking to the owner of the building and there was a sign that had a list of snacks on it. Jett pointed and said, "Wassthis?" and made me read it. Then he interrupted me and pointed and said, "Chips!" And the guy just about fell over because the next word on the list was chips! I had just told the guy that Jett could sight read a couple of words. I assured the guy that "chips" was one of Jett's words and that he can't REALLY read, like phonetically. But the guy was amazed nonetheless!

Here's Jett Reading at 19 Months.

At 20 months old, his speech therapist was trying to get him to say "book" and "duck," etc. but he wouldn't cooperate (he did say "quack, quack"). She was packing up to leave and he took the Brown Bear book out of her hand, plopped it down and read, OUT LOUD: "What do you see?" while pointing to the words. She stared at me with her mouth hanging open. I said, "Well, I said he could read some..."

At 22 months old, Jett is reading books with me--out loud! So fun!! Plus, he's figuring out words that he's never seen before. Today, he read a little girl's name: Reese. NOT one of our flashcards or words in any of his books!! Personally, I think this is amazing! (Sorry for all the exclamation points--I just had some chocolate!)

Here's Jett reading out loud at 23 months old.

At 25 months, Jett read his first whole book by himself out loud. He read the 27 page The Eye Book by Dr. Seuss. It's at the late kindergarten level. We were in the back seat of the car and he just opened the book, ran his finger under each sentence and read it to me!

He can read any word and has no fear about reading any sized word. He can read phonetically, which I didn't teach him, but he figured out, by 20 months old--I figure. I didn't realize it because I didn't test him but I hadn't taught him EVERY word through flashcards and by then he was reading signs everywhere we went. He also figured out cursive on his own, around about that time as well. He can also silent read. I first noticed this when I'd write a word that he liked that he had heard earlier in the day and he would smile and smile. At 2 1/2, he reads very quickly-- I mean as fast as you can! When he does read aloud, you can barely understand what he is saying because it's so fast. He will slow down for you and loves to give emphasis when there's an exclamation point.

At 32 months old, since Jett's lungs have continued to heal from protecting his heart before surgery, Jett reads loud and clear. It's hard to get out of the grocery store or any public place because he is obviously reading, which draws a lot of attention. But, I guess he's supposed to be an ambassador, so I just keep giving out my blog info to each new person we meet.

At 4 years old, he reads on a fifth grade level with mid-first grade comprehension. Here's a video of Jett reading. He chose "An Alphabet of Dinosaurs." You'll see why it's hard to get a good video...  The book has a Lexile® Measure of 830L, which means that the average 4-5th grader reads at that level.

How did Jett learn to read?

I don't know how well he would have learned without supplements to support his memory and brain function, but this is what I did while supplementing him. See Jett's Complete Supplement List, if interested in what works for him. My top six for cognitive support are: Longvida Curcumin, EGCG, Cognitex with Brain ShieldTrans-Resveratrol, NeuroProtek and Royal Jelly 

1) Teach your child the SOUNDS of the alphabet (phonetically), not the NAMES of the alphabet. A = Ah, B = Buh, C = Cuh, D = Duh, etc.

2) Teach the LOWER case alphabet first. 99% of the words in books are lowercase, not upper case.

3) Flashcards

Once your baby can identify at least 100 pictures, you can start with flash cards. When Jett was 4 months old, I followed the Doman method exactly according to How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman, Janet Doman. It only takes a few minutes a day, although it takes a month or so to make the flash cards yourself.

At 8 months, I stopped the flash cards because his neurodevelopmentalist said to wait until his eyes were more developed. See When to Teach Your Baby to Read for details. 

I continued them at 12 months. I did five cards, three times a day. (About 15 seconds, total.) He wanted more, but I didn't want to make it a chore. That way, he was excited every single time.

The flash cards seemed to make him notice words and become interested in them. And with the hugging/praise after each set, he associated pleasant feelings with words. So he learned to love them very quickly.

Learn how I made them and other made them in the How I made Jett's Flash Cards section below.

Here's an article explaining why teaching sight words work for young children.

Here's an article that shows how flashcards help improve spoken vocabulary.

If your child is a moving target, just flash the cards when he's in the stroller, highchair or car seat. The faster you flash, the better. You don't need to worry about whether or not he is "getting it". You just need to input, input! And trust that he is indeed, "getting it"!

If your child seems way too distracted by everything else in the room to pay attention to the flashcards, try this method to reduce distractions.

5) Read to him

I read books to Jett that met the Doman criteria. See Books to Read to Your Baby for my list of appropriate books as well as tips on how to make reading to your baby exciting.

Flash cards, in conjunction with the reading -- very happy tones & excited/ changing voices -- got him really interested. So much so that he learned to recognize words on his own. (I mean to learn the words that he wanted to learn by listening to me read and asking me to repeat them -- not phonetically yet, although he did sound out some words at 19-20 months old.) I read at least 15 books a day to him. If he seemed the least bit uninterested, I didn't read. But he was very interested. I just followed his cues.

6) Magnadoodle

I picked this up at a garage sale, just to save paper. Turned out that Jett was super interested. It's certainly faster than making flashcards and cheaper. But, you have to write fast and erase fast and have the list of words next to you so you don't have to pause and think. (I also have to write upside down, but you can position your child so you don't have to.) The magnadoodle is nice because Jett sits and anticipates what word I'm writing. So it's exciting for him. He initiates this at least once a day. After a while, I have to distract him and put it away. A little goes a long way so that he won't get sick of it and will always be excited to work with it. I don't leave it out on the floor for him to get to. I also found a travel one for only $2 at Michaels.

7) Brillkids Little Reader, Readeez & Between the Lions

This is the support media that I use. Readeez at age 8-9 months (usually to distract him when feeding supplements), Between the Lions at 12 months (only when he's on the potty) and Little Reader at 19 months. Please check out these posts for reviews of each: My Media Reviews and Review of BrillKids Little Reader

Here are free stories from Between the Lions:

They read the stories out loud and show the (nice, big) words highlighted while it's being read. PLUS you can also choose closed caption and it appears with upper & lower case! (This is rare, so I find it rather exciting.) You have lots of well produced, cute stories to choose from. (Be sure to check out all the different categories on the left of the screen.) Jett loves this show, but our DVDR lost data so we lost all the episodes & it's no longer on our local PBS station! Stories are only like 5 minutes or less so it's perfect for a quick distraction while giving supplements! (Fortunately, the local library has some copies.) The show has a lot of phonics support as well.

Readeez shows the song silmutaniously with the words (to the syllable, which is great) and they are fun and educational. Here are some (over 100!!) free Readeez videos: If your child is sound sensitive, there's a video called "Dynamics," that you might want to skip because it plays with volume and so is surprising. Jett hates it. (Jett will even cry if my husband suddenly laughs too loud.) T
here is also a Beastie Boys video, "Shake Your Rump" that has some weird psychedelic graphics that FREAK Jett out! Otherwise, Readeez is AWESOME!!

8) Phonics Book Series

For easy to read phonics books, I'd start with the Bob Books for Beginning Readers. Then the sight words and advanced reader set

At 3 years old, Oliver (Jett's brother) is enjoying The Pat the Cat's Big Book and friends phonics series.

I don't know how much of this he absorbs, (since kids aren't really supposed to be able to understand phonics until age 6 or 7) but at 19 months, I started reading Jett books that emphasize phonics. The Cat in the Hat is one fun example. Our local library has a whole collection of Rebus Readers/ SandCastle/ First Rhymes series books. Titles include Thad and His Dad, May by the Bay, The Pig with a Wig etc. They start with the photographs of the words to build the vocabulary. Then they put the photos in the sentences. Then they replace the photos with the words in sentences. Then they have a story with the words in it. The stories are boring, but Jett really enjoys the books. The photographs are great and the bold words are nicely sized.

At 36 months, Jett loves the phonics book series and definitely learns from them. He likes to make up his own rhymes now. 

9) Reading "Advanced" Books with your Child

At 3 years old, Jett reads books on his own (and has for sometime). I make books on his level fully accessible to him whenever he wants. For more advanced books (basically ones with paragraphs on each page rather than two sentences), I'd be sure to read them with him first. I read 2-4 books above his level with him a day. I do at least one in the morning so that any new vocabulary words he learns I can be sure to incorporate it into our day and other homeschooling activities. Since he reads phonetically, he'll often "mispronounce" words since some don't follow the normal rules of phonics. For instance, for "Duck Dyna-sty," He says, sty as in "sty" and not "stee." He used to "argue" with me when I'd correct him on such words because it doesn't follow the phonics pattern that he figured out. But now he understands that some words are just pronounced differently than they should be.

Children can understand above their own reading level when it's read aloud to them. On a side note, playing audio books helps improve auditory processing.

A note on testing:

Your child IS learning--you just have to stick with it. You'll soon/eventually see that s/he is getting it. As curious as I was, I did not test. But, I realized that he could read some words and only then did I "test" because the curiosity was killing me. I didn't do it on a regular basis. Just for videos. He would get mad if you show him words he knew already. He would cooperate on video because I was teaching him actions with new words and some words he knew so it felt "new." I only videoed when he picked up the magnadoodle himself and "asked" us to write for him. Otherwise, it's doubtful that he would have cooperated. So even though, in the video, I'm testing him, it's not advisable to do so. You don't want to make them mad, bored or feel like he is lacking in any way.


These are great resources to show you how to teach your baby to read.

Be sure to check out the related posts for more details on teaching your baby or young child to read.


How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman, Janet Doman
This is a super great book. You don't need to start this until your baby can identify pictures, but you need time to read it and to make or purchase the flash cards. If you are making them yourself, you need a couple of months to do it so you won't be overwhelmed.

For reviews of various educational DVDs and reading-related television shows, see the post My TV/Video Strategy.


Each of these programs follow a similar technique to what I used. I think any of these would work just fine as long as you stick with it.

Your Baby Can Read
MonkiSee Reading Program
Love and Learning Reading Program 

For Kids who Love Pictures More than Words: 

Sight words for visual learners: My favorite picture-based sight word flash card set is SnapWords. You'd need to enlarge the cards for babies.

Phonics for the visual learner: A really good phonics program that I found later and am using it for Jett's 3 year old brother, Oliver, is PreSchool Prep's phonics series that has DVDs, books and coloring books. 

See and Learn Language and Reading resources
I haven't tried these, but these free resources look interesting:


Blog Posts

When to Teach Your Baby to Read
A List of Books to Read to Your Baby that support the Doman method of teaching reading.
How & Why I teach sight words at Bill & Ria's blog.

Free flash cards

Make your own flash cards:

Flash cards need to be laminated in order to implement the Quick Flashing Method.

How to Laminate your flash cards at Laura's blog.

Flash cards for older children learning sight words (the print is too small for babies)

How I made Jett's Flash Cards

You'll need:

  • white poster board 28" x 22" (as many sheets as you want)
  • pencil
  • red non toxic tempera paint (Usually, the more expensive the better quality. I used the cheapest and it was gloppy. More expensive paint would be acrylic and you may have to use outside in case of fumes. Watercolor paint will not work because it's too light and won't adhere to the shiny side of the paper and will bleed into the matte side of the paper.)
  • a lot of time and/or help (a great task for someone who says "How can I help?")
  1. I used my mother's quilting ruler that was six inches wide to measure out four 6-inch cards.
  2. Then I drew a line for the bottom of the letters to touch, a line for the uppercase letters to touch and a line for lower case letters to touch. The uppercase letters were four inches tall and the lowercase letters were 2 1/2 inches tall.
  3. I cut the poster board into five 6-inch strips.
  4. I lightly drew a word on each card with a pencil.
  5. I used a 1/2 inch flat paint brush to paint the letters with red paint so that one stroke would cover the letter rather than a smaller brush that would take many, many strokes to cover.
Painting tips:
  • Fill the paint brush on one side, but try to leave the edges clear so that the paint can spread without spreading too wide.
  • Put a good amount of paint on your brush so you can make a full stroke w/out having to reapply paint to your brush.
  • For letters with circular parts, still use one stroke by turning your hand in a circular motion w/out lifting the brush off the page. (This does take practice.) I am an artist and used a paint brush every day for about ten years at that point, so it was easy for me.
Later, my sister, who had access to a large printer, printed out more cards for me. You might want to contact a local printer and see if they can do it for you. They could cut out the flash card strips for you or, to save money, you can cut them out yourself. The cards in the picture are the ones my sister printed out.


Discounted Electronic Reading Program

Here is a link to the information on getting a special needs discount on BrillKids programs - 30 to 100% off,

Here's my Review of BrillKids Little Reader

If you apply for the discount, make sure you apply for the LittleMath discount as well as LittleReader. People having been getting them for the full 100% discount - they usually cost about $270 or $280, so it is an awesome deal!


Free Learning Program materials

Support Forums/Facebook Groups

On Facebook:

Unlimited Potential
Early Learning Closed Group (Secret group, you'll have to friend me "Andi Durkin" and ask to get added.)


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