Last night Bethany (age 7) sat down on my bed beside me and read me the entire first book of her 1st grade readers; that's all the way through, from front to back, 100 pages!! Maybe that doesn't seem impressive to you -- but it was to me! It represented that sudden "light-bulb moment" that happens when a young child suddenly connects with the written word and all those hours and hours of phonics instruction suddenly make sense! For a homeschooling mother, it is a very happy moment, indeed! :)
The magic happens at a different age for every child. I have now taught ten children how to read! While some learned to read as young as age 4 or 5, a couple didn't really "click" with reading until age 8 or 9!! However, most learned around age 5 1/2 to 6 1/2.
In case you're wondering, my best readers weren't necessarily the ones who learned to read at an early age. Tiffany and Taylor have been two of my most avid readers thus far, devouring just about every book I brought into the house! Tiffany was reading at age 5 and Taylor didn't read until age 8, but he read many 3-inch thick biographies and every G.A. Henty book he could get his hands on!
The hardest part about having a late reader is the pressure a parent feels to have his or her child "measure up" to the expectations of others and have that child reading by a certain age. The child may feel pressure, too, and start feeling "stupid," if other kids (or adults) make him feel that way. A child in a public or private school setting will quickly be labeled as "slow" or "dyslexic" or "ADD" if not reading by the expected age and grade, when that child may just be on a different timetable! Children all mature at different rates, and some learn differently than others, but whether they learn to read early or late, it all evens out eventually. I learned that principle many years ago in the landmark book, Better Late than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, and it's very true. Taylor, who didn't read at all until he was 8, eventually went on to be the Star Student for his high school -- and no one cared any more how old he was when reading "clicked" for him!!! So, if you happen to have a late bloomer -- be encouraged!!
There are many excellent programs for teaching Phonics and Reading . . . and I don't know that it matters that much which one you go with. Some will better suit the needs of a specific parent and child than others, but most programs will work if you use them. In fact, I've read that even if you do nothing, most children will eventually teach themselves to read if they are read to, so keep reading aloud! Certainly, a parent/teacher can facilitate the learning process through the use of a good phonics program. My favorite programs have changed through the years, as my circumstances and understanding of the reading process has changed.
Back in the early 1990's, I taught Tiffany and Ashlyn to read using "Sing, Spell, Read and Write" -- a very popular phonics program for homeschoolers at that time. It was fun and engaging and it worked. It also gave me the confidence that I could do this!
In the late 1990's and early 2000's, I taught phonics and reading to Taylor, Josh, Joe, Chris and Hannah, using Doreen Clagget's Christ Centered Phonics Program, which is a Bible-based comprehensive program that involved daily drilling of the phonemes using 118 phonics flashcards, each with a spiritual truth on the back. Although this was an excellent and extremely thorough program, I eventually grew very weary of all the drilling and needed a change!
That change occurred when, during her senior year of high school, Tiffany took over teaching 1st grade to Chris and Hannah using the Rod and Staff curriculum, which was very simple, sweet, and straightforward. She was a great teacher, even way back then, and they were eager little students! She got them reading, and in second grade, they started using the Bob Jones HomeSat video classes, which really helped them become excellent readers!
Luke, Matthew and Bethany all learned to read using Bob Jones Distance Learning, which I highly recommend. Their Kindergarten and 1st grade Phonics and Reading classes are Outstanding!!! They not only learn to decode words using a "word family" approach, but they learn comprehension skills and how to read expressively. The distance learning classes are not cheap -- but they are Excellent!
However, Matt is a very different type of learner. Last year, when Matt was still struggling to learn to read at age 8, I supplemented his reading instruction with Dianne Craft's, Right Brain Phonics program, which is designed to help the struggling reader, especially one with auditory processing problems. It was a life-saver for us and helped Matt scale that reading mountain! Now he is continuing to make progress using Bob Jones Distance Learning 2nd grade Reading and loving it!
Regardless of how or when they learn, it is a moment for celebration when reading finally "clicks!" :)