Not long ago I was at a friend’s house with my kids, playing a board game with his family. (I lost.) The kids’ game involved a bit of reading, but just simple words and phrases that Lulu and Roy could produce easily. My friend, though, seemed impressed: “Wow, how did you teach your kids to read?”
The truth is, I didn’t really have to “teach” them. If you read to your children regularly enough, from the time they’re newborns, they’ll start to pick it up on their own, very naturally. (If a learning disability is suspected, it’s a different matter, of course.)
That said, I did make use of an excellent series of small books that formed the foundation of their independent reading—it’s called Now I’m Reading!—and I recommend it very highly, if English is your target language, too.
Now I’m Reading!, written by elementary school teacher Nora Gaydos, is a program for beginning readers that consists of multiple sets of small books—books that combine the best of phonics and literature. Because programs of this sort often emphasize phonics more heavily than literature, resulting in stories that are thin or nonexistent, such programs can be dull and a drudge for both parent and child.
It isn’t easy, of course, to create engaging stories from a very limited list of words, but Now I’m Reading! does this remarkably well through its lively humor and silly illustrations. Not only do the books provide a solid grounding in phonics and sight words, they’re actually fun to read.
The Now I’m Reading! materials continue to evolve, but when I used them with Lulu and Roy, these were the sets that formed the core of our daily reading practice.
Level 1 (Playful Pals)
Level 1, Advanced (Clever Critters)
Level 2 (Amazing Animals)
Level 3 (On the Go!)
Level 4 (Let’s Play!)
Each level consists of 10 small books—10 pages per book—that come snuggled in plastic pockets inside a book-like case. Lulu was 4 when we began using them, and Roy was 3, and after about six months, and 50 books, they were reading independently at the sort of level you see below.
The Now I’m Reading! sets come with a helpful “parent guide” as well as a sheet of “incentive stickers” to mark progress. For more information on these books, and other materials in the Now I’m Reading! family, see this page from the publisher, Innovative Kids. You might also be interested in the author’s blog, though it hasn’t been updated for a while.