Learning to read is one of the most important milestones in a child’s young life and education. Reading opens the doors to learning and sets the stage for a lifetime of imagination, understanding, and accomplishment. Being able to read and comprehend what’s being read is both a pleasure and a required life skill. That’s why it’s so critical that we teach our children to read well. But, as any parent knows, teaching reading to homeschoolers is often equal parts wonderful and exasperating. From site word drills to letter blending to the often painful night time books in bed ritual (that seems to take hours!) with an emerging reader, the pattern is often the same. But, how and when a student learns to read varies from student to student, which makes teaching reading more difficult. Many homeschooling parents struggle teaching reading to one child while another learns to read before they’re 4! But, teaching reading to homeschoolers doesn’t have to be an uphill battle when you keep the stages of reading and your child’s learning style in mind as you encourage your bookworms.

Where to Start: The Stages of Reading

The Stages of Reading Developmentis a continuum that explains how students progress as readers. These stages are based on the students’ experience and not their age or grade level.   Understanding where your child falls in this continuum as well as your child’s preferred learning style can help you in planning for learning experiences that will assist in building literacy skills.

Readers begin as emergent readers who are just beginning to understand the concept of print and letter-sound relationships.  As readers progress within the continuum, they progress to the early reader stage.  Early Readers use strategies to predict words and use picture clues to confirm predictions as they read.  It is this time in the reader’s development that the visual clues and patterns help to develop stronger reading skills, so they must pay close attention to these elements. Identifying how the written words have meaning in our surroundings is beneficial for all early readers!

The next stage in the reading development is considered transitional. Transitional readers can identify story elements and read at a good pace.  At this stage, the reader utilizes many strategies to decode unknown words.  They will also be more able to read for meaning and answer reading comprehension questions based around who, what, when, where, why, and how.

The final stage of reading development identifies readers as fluent readers. Fluent readers are confident in their understanding of text and how text works.  They have a better grasp of content and are able to analyze details and understand themes. During this stage, the reader can benefit from a variety of more complex texts and find connection between the format of the literature and written word.

Teaching Reading While Keeping Learning Style in Mind

So how does learning style come into play with the phases of reading? Knowing your child’s learning style not only gives you a window to how they learn best, but it also reveals the styles of teaching and communicating information that may trip them up and frustrate them along the way. As your child travels through each different phase, you should motivate and engage them through their learning style while being aware of the teaching methods that will trigger frustration.

Visual Learner Reading Strategies

Emergent Readers–

  • Sit alongside a reader and follow the written words in a storybook.
  • Create a bookmark with a large arrow that points towards the direction words should be read.
  • Use a pencil or highlighter to highlight the words as you read.
  • Use colorful printed material with lots of picture clues.
  • Create written letters and words using chalk, paint, etc.
  • Choose books with lots of word patterns and repetition.

Transitional and Fluent Readers—

  • Allow more partner reading experiences that include visuals.
  • Have transitional reader illustrate part of the story after reading.
  • Use higher level visuals like charts, maps, and graphs.
  • Analyze cause and effect, inferences, etc. through cartoons or illustrations then have visual reader write the story to accompany.
  • Vary the genre to include visually appealing writing like haiku, lymric, poetry, etc.
  • Use graphic organizers to analyze and understand after reading.

Auditory Learner Reading Strategies
Emergent Readers–

  • Read aloud often!
  • Listen to books on tape with a colorful accompanying book.
  • Use rhyming literature with repetitive patterns.
  • Act it out!
  • Use different voices and inflection while reading.
  • Record your voice or have your child record their voice while reading then playback.

Transitional and Fluent Readers—

  • Listen to verbal instructions and copy them down.
  • Longer audiobooks without pictures.
  • Participate in discussion groups.
  • Read and write poems, plays, etc. that involve presentation.
  • Read literature and compare to the movie version.

Kinesthetic Learner Reading Strategies
Emergent Readers–

  • Move body into the shape of the letter to spell words.
  • Draw letter shapes while listening to a letter-based story.
  • Use shaving cream, sand, etc. to practice letters and site words.
  • Act out stories after reading them.
  • Use books with lift-the-flap and touch and feel areas.
  • Walk, run, ride bikes, etc. while hunting for site words and letters.

Transitional and Fluent Readers—

  • Read long passages only after physical movement.
  • Read and then create dramatic or comedic sketches to act out.
  • Debate and discuss in a book group.
  • Use hands-on, project-based assignments as assessments and to better understand and analyze texts.

Understanding your student’s preferred learning style as well as understanding where your student falls within the reading stage continuum may help you support your student’s reading progress and take the burden off of teaching reading.  Enjoy exploring the options and have fun reading with your child!
What are your best reading strategies that keep learning style in mind? We would love to hear them!