How Ian Learned to Read

This summer Ian, age 6, became a reader. I guess it’s time to write another post like Learning to Read Without School, about how my daughters each learned to read. If you are interested in ideas on learning to read naturally, I suggest reading those pages as well. I’m going to try not to be redundant here.

Even though Ian is my third child to learn to read naturally, he keeps amazing me with each new thing he reads.  I seriously have never tried to give him a lesson — unless you consider conversations lessons. But I haven’t even given him many of those conversational-type lessons. His learning to read was as magical as learning to walk and talk. All this year, periodically Ian would read something or type a few words in a chat in a game. Gradually the amount he read and the difficulty of the words increased. Now he can read a paragraph from Harry Potter and pages in Highlights Magazine like this one (click if you’d like to see it larger):

On a 40 minute drive this afternoon, Ian picked up this magazine and began reading these questions for me to answer. This page is from a free sample of Highlights Magazine available at
On a 40 minute drive this afternoon, Ian picked up Highlights Magazine and began reading these questions for me to answer. This page is from a free sample of the magazine available at

How did he learn to read? It has been largely invisible to me, but here are some possible factors.

* I have continued to read to my kids every night, books that they choose. Ian even heard chapter books I was reading to his sisters when he was nursing to sleep as a baby. This promotes reading as an enjoyable and useful activity, and also exposes children to vocabulary they can access when they read on their own.

* I talk with my children respectfully and without dumbing down my words. Again, this promotes the vocabulary we need to streamline reading. Watching my kids learning to read, there comes a time when the words on which they stumble are almost exclusively unknown words. They might read half the word, stop, and I can almost hear the gears turning as they try to remember a word that fits.

* I matter-of-factly spell out words on request dozens of times every day as my kids chat with friends in online games or enter commands or type stories or Minecraft signs. Writing (spelling) is definitely another way to learn to read.

It’s much much more complex than this, I’m sure, but those three things definitely play a large part in our family life.

100% of my family are readers now. I’ve donated some of the materials I was holding on to just in case, such as The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading. Currently we’re immersed in The City Of Ember series (we just began Prophet of Yonwood) and Ian has been playing a lot of Scribblenauts, which is such an awesome game I’m thinking of playing it a bit myself. 🙂 Besides being fun, it involves a lot of reading and spelling.


One comment

  1. What a great message! It is amazing how reading (and spelling) happens. Owen learned a bit from instructional books, but I think a lot of it was watching Star Trek with the closed captions on. We used to watch an episode every night, and his reading skills just exploded at that time. And lots and lots of books and reading, as you say – it brings home the value of that skill. 🙂


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