Logo Homeschool World ® Official Web Site of Practical Homeschooling Magazine Laurel Springs School

Practical Homeschooling® :

Neat Ideas that Help a Child Learn to Read

By Frank Armbruster
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #67, 2005.

What parents can do to encourage their children to read.

   Pin It

Frank Armbruster

Here are some things I recommend to parents who want to prepare their child for reading. You can do these things starting when the child is in the crib. If you do, your baby will be better prepared to learn to read when he or she gets to kindergarten.

As the inventor of FiddleDisks (clear, colored construction toys also sold under a separate license as solid colored Brewster Buttons), I've found them helpful in pre-reading activities, starting in infancy.

The first step: build some shapes out of FiddleDisks or Brewster Buttons. Build shapes that vary in color, count, and shape. Examples: three red ones in a straight line, five green ones in an "L" shape, eight blue ones in a square, etc. Use combinations of 3, 4, 5, up to ten and simple shapes, and the primary colors. Use push pins and thread to hang these shapes from the ceiling where the baby can see them.

Play the Flashlight Game

Then, when the child is beginning to look around and pay attention to the visual environment, use a flashlight and shine it on the various shapes. Say "look, there's a line of three red ones." Watch to see that the baby's eyes are following the beam of the light and noticing the shape hanging from the ceiling. Don't talk baby talk. Use a normal voice as though you were telling an older child. Then point the light beam to another shape, and do another count and another color. Do this for as long as the child keeps watching. Quit when he or she no longer follows the beam. It might be just a minute or two, or it might be more. The important thing is to not go on too long. Two minutes each day is better than a fifteen minutes once a week. Here's the idea: Look at Fig.1. The blocks represent four processors in the brain that researchers feel represent what happens in reading.

Fig. 1

Make Your Own Hanging Things

Before we go any farther, let me put in a disclaimer. You don't have to run out and buy FiddleDisks or Brewster Buttons for this. You can cut out shapes from magazines, cereal boxes, color your own shapes or use familiar household objects to hang. Just make a rich visual environment for that infant's evolving brain.

Helping the Brain Develop

When you are doing this business with the flashlight, you are exercising the three lower processors; you are helping them build the blood supply to their particular regions in the brain. It's sort of an "intellectual aerobics exercise" if you will. Combining this paradigm with Dr. Sally Shaywitz's book Overcoming Dyslexia describing the functional MRI brain scans she's done convinced me that this is the most useful model yet for understanding what happens during reading. The games and crossword puzzles I have designed were developed from these influences.

Not an Expert

Understand something, please: I'm not a psychologist; I'm not a reading expert. I'm an engineer, an instructor, and a game and puzzle designer. I've been privileged to know and work with some very talented people who are reading experts and learning psychologists. And I've read some very informative and convincing books on the subject. But what I do is design and manufacture games and puzzles and toys that add motivation to learning. What you're reading here is not original with me. It's a compilation of what I've been able to glean from the experts.

Steve Tattum and F.A.S.T.

One of those talented people I've been fortunate to work with is Stephan Tattum, of the F.A.S.T. Learning Center at Denver Academy (fastlearningllc.com). Steve has put together what I believe is the best remedial reading program yet. I recently attended one of Steve's lectures on reading, and he suggested something I want to add to the Adams/Shaywitz concept I mentioned above. Look at Fig. 2. Steve makes the point that the Whole Language Programs and the Phonics Programs are both effective, but not completely so. Steve's program combines the best of both disciplines. I'm tremendously impressed by what Steve's accomplished with poor readers.

Adopted from an article printed in Buyer's Quarterly. Used by permission. For additional informational materials, please go to abc2z.com.

Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:

USA Individual
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library

University of Nebraska High School
Free Email Newsletter!
Sign up to receive our free email newsletter, and up to three special offers from homeschool providers every week.

Articles by Frank Armbruster

Neat Ideas that Help a Child Learn to Read

Another Way to A-B-C

Print Awareness: A First Step Towards Reading

Important Concepts in Early Reading

Phonemic Awareness: A Major Factor in Reading

Reading Corner: Learning to Speak

Learning the Code

Do It Yourself Toys to Help Emerging Readers

A Reason for Reading

Popular Articles

How to "Bee" a Spelling Success

The Benefits of Debate

Advanced Math: Trig, PreCalc, and more!

Start a Nature Notebook

Montessori Math

Narration Beats Tests

Give Yourself a "CLEP Scholarship"

The Equal Sign - Symbol, Name, Meaning

AP Courses At Home

A Homeschooler Wins the Heisman

The History of Public Education

Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

The Charlotte Mason Approach to Poetry

Myth of the Teenager

Columbus and the Flat Earth...

Whole-Language Boondoggle

Joyce Swann's Homeschool Tips

The Gift of a Mentor

Character Matters for Kids

What Does My Preschooler Need to Know?

Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy

Getting Started in Homeschooling: The First Ten Steps

Classical Education

How to Win the Geography Bee

Phonics the Montessori Way

Teaching Blends

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

A Reason for Reading

What We Can Learn from the Homeschooled 2002 National Geography Bee Winners

Teach Your Children to Work

Saxon Math: Facts vs. Rumors

Discover Your Child's Learning Style

Top Tips for Teaching Toddlers

Critical Thinking and Logic

Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

Shakespeare Camp

I Was an Accelerated Child

Laptop Homeschool

University Model Schools

Bears in the House

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Getting Organized Part 3

Montessori Language Arts at Home, Part 1

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

Top Jobs for the College Graduate

Combining Work and Homeschool

Who Needs the Prom?

The Charlotte Mason Method

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

Getting Organized Part 1 - Tips & Tricks

Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
Copyright ©1993-2019 Home Life, Inc.