Editor’s Note: This is a piece I originally wrote for HomeschoolBenefits.org.
As a teacher, I have used many different approaches for teaching reading: phonics, whole language, literature based, etc. Many workshop instructors attempted me to convince me their program was the best. I have also encountered many people who believe that phonics and sight words is the only way to teach reading and that whole language is the reason children cannot read. Then there are those TV commercials that claim their program is the miracle cure that will have your child reading a book with a few short lessons. Of course, the fine print says it is one of their books.

Whole language and literature based approaches use interesting materials and real books. Children learn that reading is more than just a “reader” used in reading class. However, one problem is vocabulary. For beginning readers this can be challenging. If children are exposed to predictable books, then some children may memorize them rather than actually read them.

Teaching phonics helps children learn the skills to decode words themselves. It is easier to have books that children can successfully read when books using controlled vocabulary are used.

Then there are the miracle cure programs. They are based on research, and they are expensive. Does this mean that they must work? Not necessarily. These programs will work for some children, but may not help a child with a real disability. I taught in a school for learning disabled students that required students in my 45 minute reading to attend 15 minutes of a computerized reading program, because it would teach them sight words. Next, they had to attend 15 minutes of bean bag therapy. The rationale behind the bean bag therapy was that this would improve motor skills and fix their reading problems. I was left with 15 minutes to teach reading, and I had students reading on eight different levels. There was very little time for actual reading.

So what is the best way to teach reading? The literature based approached is good, because it develops an interest in reading; reading is about books and not just a subject in school. Phonics instruction helps a child learn decoding. I have reached the conclusion that my mom was right. The best way to teach reading is to give a child a book that they will enjoy and have them read every day. A child will only learn to read by consistent practice. So the best method for teaching a child to read is … to read, read, read.

8 thoughts on “The Best Method for Teaching Reading

  1. Babyhead is in kindergarten and they are teaching them to read with the 100 book challenge. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, they have categories of books based on reading level. Babyhead is in the YY category and he wants to move up to Green…the problem is he doesn’t “know” some of the sight words.

    The thing is he does know them, just refuses to read them and he has been on YY for so long that he has memorized all the books (like you said). He doesn’t even bother tracking the words or anything anymore…he just says what he knows is on the page…however his teacher says he can’t move up until he can recite the sight words…which he does with us but obviously not with her.


    I don’t remember reading in kindergarten so I really don’t understand why they are pushing it so hard…half of these kids barely know their letters…


    1. Is the 100 book challenge part of the accelerated reader program? When he reads the sight words to you do you use a sheet with all of the words in order or do you use flash cards?
      Try using those words in other things or finding those words in other books and asking him the words. Also, have you ever tried doing dictated stories with him. Have BH draw a picture and then tell you the story about the picture. Write “his” words down and practice reading them. Another way would be to have him make up sentences using the sight words down.Write the sentences on big paper and then practice reading the sentences. I used to do this on sentence strips and then mix the strips up.


  2. I made flash cards with the words his teacher said to work on, so they aren’t on a sheet in order for him to memorize. He does draw pictures and then writes a sentence for the story about it.

    I don’t know about the accelerated reader stuff…this is mandatory as far as I can see with our school district. ALL kids at all grades have to do this…but it isn’t really a 100 book challenge, they have to read for x amount of time a day…and they can only use the provided books to “log” what they have read.

    We do have other books we have him read, which is why we know he can move up to the next level (one is a Star Wars book that has all the vehicles in it…he really shouldn’t be able to read it, but he can read many of the words in it to us). We go to the B&N and get books for him so they aren’t memorized. BUT, since he can’t use those books as proof for that ridiculous challenge, we are stuck with books that he has memorized. I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing about keys and hairy things. :-/


    1. We do, and she has…he is just stubborn. He did really well tonight only having issues with “bush” and “barbecue”. Words he hasn’t seen before or doesn’t hear often. I guess we just keep doing what we are doing and hope something sticks at some point. 🙂


  3. Does he have to get all the words correct to move up? If he has trouble with just a few words try making up silly stories, sentences that he either dictates or writes with help. The practice reading them each day until he has mastered the word. Using the words and making them his “own” will help him learn them.
    I found the website for the standards for the 100 book challenge.


    1. Improving reading much more than just memorizing vocabulary. In fact,memorization of words and vocabulary does not work on the finer points of reading.


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