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Encouragement for Teaching Reading at Home

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

February 28, 2022


Am I qualified to teach my child reading?

What if I don’t pick the perfect curriculum?

What if Cousin Sally or little Susie next door who “goes to school” reads much sooner than my child?

Questions like these bug me and sometimes distract me from my goal of teaching my children to read.

Let me take a moment to chat about each of the above questions. First, am I qualified to teach my child to read? The public school and many, many educators would say you as the parent have no business teaching your child how to read. Teaching a child to read has risen to such a level that only “experts” can do it, and yet if we have such advanced teaching methods amongst “experts” why are so many children illiterate? In my humble opinion, if you can read, you can turn around and teach someone else how to read.

The method you used to learn reading as a child may not have been the best, but that is okay! You as a parent can choose a strong phonics-based method to teach your child. Remember, I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me (Phil. 4:13). For the humble, God-dependent homeschool parent, anything is possible, and God can and will equip you to teach your child.

Next, what if I don’t pick the perfect curriculum? This question has by far haunted me the most and almost crippled me in moving forward. I have agonized over which curriculum to use, and researched, and researched some more. Yet the other day, this thought came to my mind, “What is the goal in teaching my child reading?” I answered myself, “To learn how to read.” You may be wondering what my point is, and the point is as long as my child learns how to read, why am I worrying about an exact method?


In my post about The Key to Homeschooling, I mentioned a sweet friend whom I called Sarah. Sarah shared with me several reading curricula which worked for her family, and she shared that her individual children favored different curricula. Several children responded well to the Abeka Handbook for Reading, and another child learned to read using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. Eventually each child “took flight” and is now soaring in his ability to read. I believe the key to Sarah’s success in teaching reading was that no matter what curriculum she used, she sat down with each child every day and they read together. This reading time together fostered sweet relationships and created the confidence her children needed to read on their own.

Last, what if other children read much sooner than my child? Comparing our children with other children is never healthy (a good reminder for myself). If you know me personally, you know I am not a proponent for laziness, but I have matured a little in my zealousness to teach my children. Kids need time to play and be kids, and they will never get their childhoods back.

I am slowly learning that a child’s mind is not developmentally ready for certain skills and just be patient. I would recommend familiarizing your child with the letters of the alphabet through play around ages 2-3, work on letter-sound association around age 4, and then start a systematic phonics program around age 5. As long as I am working diligently with my child on reading, who cares how other kids are progressing?

I whole-heartedly endorse a phonics based approach, whether that be BJU Press, Abeka, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, or Spell to Write and Read. Just as there are multiple excellent methods to learning the piano, so I believe there are a number of excellent methods to teaching reading. A wise parent will be in tune with her child and know the best method for her student. (The point of this post is not to delve into curriculum particulars but just give some encouragement for homeschool parents.)


For several weeks, I read the first level of Bob books to my child, and after several weeks of reading she could read large portions of the books to me. Some might criticize me and say, "Your daughter just memorized the words.” May I politely say that there is memorization involved in reading? Yes, I am all for phonics, but I do not literally sound out every phoneme as I am reading now. My mind now associates certain sounds and even words with certain letters, and I can quickly read.

While I am not a reading expert, I would like to share what I am learning about teaching children to read. I hope these thoughts are an encouragement to you as they have been to me.

1. Be patient. Any complex skill, such as reading, takes time to learn.

2. Every child learns differently. While one curriculum may work beautifully for one child, another child may need a different approach. A friend shared with me that neither Bob Jones Press nor Abeka worked for her child at the outset of learning reading. This child was simply not grasping letter sound associations. Instead of forcing a curriculum on this child, the mother thought up a unique system that worked for this child. This little one loved animals, so the mother lined up a bunch of her stuffed animals and told the child that just as real animals have different sounds so the letters of the alphabet have different sounds. A lightbulb went off in this little girl’s mind, and she grasped the foundational concepts of reading. The rest is history, and this young lady, now an adult, enjoys reading.


3. Don’t be rigid in curriculum choice; be flexible. I once heard a story of a child who was struggling to learn how to read. This child picked up a friend’s reading book, and the book was helping her learn how to read. The mother found the child reading the book, took the book away, and pronounced that book was not approved according to the method they were using. Sadly, this mother, an educator herself, was so narrow-minded in methodology that she could not see the value of another curriculum that might have helped her child. Needless to say, the child was demoralized and continued to struggle with reading. What a sad condition for this child all for the sake of proudly adhering to a certain method!

4. Just spend time reading with your child. So often fear of doing something the “right way” keeps us from just jumping in and learning a new skill. This perfectionism is present even as we step onto the wonderful trail of reading with our children. We fear what may be around the corner on this trail instead of just taking one step at a time with our children. I have even encountered classroom educators who did not take time to read to their own children. Reading was not a habit in the home, and the children were expected to learn how to read at school. These children struggled, and the blame was put upon the children as a learning deficiency. The parents then wondered why their own children could not read.


Part of the beauty of homeschooling is the time parents can take with their children each day. Read, read, and read some more. But don’t just stop with reading. I have also witnessed parents who read enormous quantities of books to their children but did not talk to their children about what they read.

5. Do not get frustrated. Getting frustrated with your child is about the worst thing you could do to help your child learn to read. Your frustration will only fuel your child’s frustration. Patience, kindness, and perseverance will create the right environment for reading to blossom.

6. Make reading time cozy and special. Reading should be a reward. A principal I once worked under said to “reward reading with reading.” In other words, if a child reaches a reading goal, reward him with another book.


Relax, and free yourself from rigid paradigms. Let reading be a joy. Learning to read should be an organic process. Though there is hard work involved in learning to read, you and your child should look forward to reading together each day.

If reading is a dread for you or your child, take a step back and view the process with an aerial perspective. Is there something that needs to change? Does your attitude need to change? Does your child’s attitude need to change? Is the curriculum you are using not the best fit for your child? Do you have a daily routine of working on reading together—same place and setup?

Remember that learning to read fluently is the goal. If your child learns how to read effectively using a program that others might disdain, who cares? Enjoy this precious opportunity to teach your child to read!

I hope this post was a help to someone who may lack the confidence to teach reading. I also hope this post was an encouragement to someone who may have taken some criticism for using an “unapproved” method. God promises to give us wisdom if we just ask!


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