Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How I Taught My Baby To Read

I FINALLY caught Xander reading on camera!  I have been wanting to for a while, but he isn't always cooperative when a camera is out.  I was thrilled to get him in the right mood!  I am so proud of my little guy and how well he is doing!  Anyway, I recently posted it to my personal Facebook account and had some inquiries as to how we did it, so I thought I would share.

Xander is 26 months in the video

Let me preface this by saying that I understand that there are plenty of people out there that will criticize me for teaching my baby to read.  I've heard a variety of arguments from "let them be babies while they can" and "he will be bored in school."  I have my list of counter arguments, including that my son will not be one of the 40% of kids who struggle to learn to read in school, but ultimately, its a personal choice, just like choosing cloth or disposable diapers is a choice.  I am not saying this is what all parents should do, just what we did.

How We Did It
Really, I did a variety of things with him and I think it is likely all contributed to him being able to read so well for his age.  There was no drilling or testing.  The whole process was easy and fun for both of us.

I knew I wanted Xander to love books, so I made an effort to make books and words a part of life from the time he was very young.  As soon as he was mobile, I made sure he always had access to books by setting out board books on a low shelf.  Now that he is older, he has a shelf of books on every level of the house, which I can rotate as needed.  I read to him frequently.  If the font on the page is big enough for him to see, I run my finger under the words as I read them.  We make frequent trips to the library and completed a 1500 Book Challenge just last month.

On top of reading a ton of books, I have also made sure he is always exposed to words.  As a baby he watched Your Baby Can Read movies and I did some high speed flashcards with him.  He also watched Your Baby Can Discover.  Now that he is a little older, he has moved on to the Your Child Can Read movies.  I don't think any of these movies could have taught him to read as much as he does, but I do think they gave him some great exposure (and let me get a shower every day.  Single mom, remember?).

Little Reader:
When Xander was an infant I read How To Teach Your Baby To Read by Glenn Doman, which introduced me to the idea of high speed flashing.  While I didn't follow Doman's exact plan, I did stick with the whole word approach and the flashing method.  Basically, you show the child each word as you say it (cheerfully) very quickly, no more than two seconds each.  The words should be in lowercase, with the exception of proper nouns, because that is what is most prevalent in written language.  The words also need to be large enough that young eyes can interpret them instantaneously.  

I started making my flashcards on poster board with giant red markers, but soon learned that they were time consuming to make and I was clumsy with the big flashcards.  Then I ended up finding Little Reader, which is probably the best investment I have ever made as far as early education. Then I printed most of my flashcards from there.  I tried to flash him a set of words daily, but did not quite have the time to follow a good, consistent schedule.  

When Xander was about 15 months we really started working on reading through Little Reader.  It is a program that teaches reading and vocabulary in a method very similar to that described by Doman, only it includes pictures and videos as well.  It comes with about a year of premade lessons, but you can also make your own and parents can share them through the forums.  Each lesson takes less than five minutes, and they recommend doing two lessons a day.  Xander only does one of the premade lessons a day and then I try to do some category flashing with it.  I turn the audio and video off and flash through a category of words as fast as I can while still being clear.  It takes about 30 seconds to do a category.  I have also made categories of words and pictures to go with his interests.  Since he loves Thomas and has a ton of Thomas books, I made a category to teach him all of the trains' names.  Recently I started flashing him sight words, which has really improved his reading skills.  He likes going through all of the categories so much, I will often do them multiple times for him at a sitting.  For older words he already knows, I just turn on autoplay and let him watch while I clean or get something quick done.  It used to take him longer, but now he can learn a new category of words is less than a week of flashing.  I can't make new categories nearly as fast as he can learn them!

I try to make games to reinforce a lot of the words he has learned.  We play matching games with toys, flashcards or 3 Part Cards, which he loves  (you can download the ones I've made here).  We also use little plastic animals to play with his Sight Words Zoos (description about halfway down on this page).  We jump on words or act out words.  While none of these games actually teach him the words, they do serve as fun reinforcement.
Jumping on the words as I call out an animal name.

When we're reading books together, I have started having him read the words he knows.  Some books, that means every word.  If he is tired or not in the mood, I will definitely still read to him.  What blows me away is when he reads words I never actually taught him.  There are a lot he has figured out just from being read to .  While I'm not sure all of those words would transfer to other contexts, reading in context is still a valuable skill.

All in all, I did my best to set him up with the best learning environment possible.  I spent 5-10 minutes a day flashing him words, but only if he was in the mood and wanted to see them.  I encouraged him and gave him the opportunity to learn.  It totally paid off.  While he still can't read everything and isn't completely smooth, I am thrilled with how well he is doing.  If I can teach my baby with my crazy schedule, anyone can!


  1. Way to go Xander & awesome job Mama! :) You have given him a gift that will last a lifetime.

  2. That is amazing, your little boy is very blessed to have you as a mom!! What is the approach that you used for Spanish? The same one? Thanks in advance for your response!

  3. Xander is very blessed to have you as a mother!! What is your approach to Spanish? Same or different?

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Honestly, I didn't do nearly as much Spanish as I would have liked. He doesn't know it well. If I had the ability to stay home with him, I'd definitely do more. Probably a lot of similar techniques. 3 Part Cards, flashing, reading in Spanish.


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