Hooked on Phonics, Worked for me!

readingMLI is coming up on five years old and is therefore, in pre-K. In addition to the twice-weekly Spanish classes (Spanish at 5 years old?), they are also learning how to read. Each night he comes home with this little sheet of words that he is working on and last week, he even came home with a rhyme that he read–something to the effect of, “Nan pats the cat. The Cat can pat Nan.” etc. It didn’t get much more difficult.

Thing is, they are learning to read by learning the sight of words. So, they learn that “STOP” reads “Stop.” They are not learning to sound the word out, “Sssss…ta…ta…ah…pa…pa…SssTaPa…STOP!”

We had a small debate over at CareerMom’s parent’s house the other night as to the appropriateness of this method of teaching. CareerMom’s mother is a teacher, and sitting around the table were several highly educated people, who each thought he or she knew better than the other which way of teaching a child to read was better.

It was my MIL who postulated that the child isn’t really learning to read this way; while one of her daughters (who went to a very expensive private university, then transferred out west to get a Masters in Music and who is now doing a Jr. level job at a pharma company), claimed, “Well, once you’re older, aren’t you reading by recognizing the words anyway?”

A good point to be sure, but I’m of the opinion that a child should learn to add manually before using a calculator. However, being the “outlaw” at the table, and one who understands the value of a free, home-cooked meal, I kept my mouth shut.

Last night while trying to come up with a low-key way to kill the last 30 minutes before the kid’s bedtime, I sat down with MLI and asked him to read me “Go Dog Go.” Doesn’t everyone know this book?

Well, he knew the first couple of pages…by heart. Once we got past his “sight words” vocabulary, it was a frustrating thing for him to sound the words out. This cemented my belief that learning to read by sight words is a waste of time! I mean, if a kid has a photographic memory, then fine. Eventually, the kid can read Webster’s and be good to go, but for the rest of us, we really need to learn how to figure things out on our own.

Unfortunately, patience does not run on my side of the family (Bio-mom excluded), and MLI quickly became frustrated with my attempts at helping him. And to my credit, I think I was very patient! (Yaah me!).  All in all, I’m not too worried about him reading or not reading right now. In Kindergarten, I was in the “Remedial Reading Group” until I figured it out and then I was into it like gangbusters. I still spend a substantial amount of money each year on books and I have no doubt that my kids will follow suit.

But, for you parents out there with school-age kids; what did you/do you have to do to help your kids read? And how did they learn? Did the “sight word” method work for you?