Charlotte Mason Reading Instruction

We tend to stress and panic over teaching our children how to read, but is it possible that to them, it isn't a big deal? Maybe even throughout struggles and celebrations, learning to read becomes a long-lost memory? Charlotte Mason thought so. 

"Many persons consider that to learn to read a language so full of anomalies and difficulties as our own is a task which should not be imposed too soon on the childish mind. But, as a matter of fact, few of us can recollect how or when we learned to read: for all we know, it came by nature, like the art of running; and not only so, but often mothers of the educated classes do not know how their children learned to read." Home Education, page 201

Charlotte Mason's approach to reading is different than today's prevailing trends. She called her method "reading by sight." Instead of being surrounded by many words, like the whole language approach, or sounding out each grapheme, like phonics, this approach involves looking at an entire words, memorizing it's shape, and then reading it in context. 

This approach is immediately rewarding, as children can recognize several words right away. The work is more meaningful, because rather than plugging away at phonics patterns, which takes weeks or months to being making sense of, the pay-off is quick. 

But, does that mean that phonics aren't necessary? How does the modern research about phonics align with Charlotte Mason's approach? It's a myth that Charlotte Mason didn't believe in teaching phonics. She did want us to teach phonics.  Before our children officially learn to read, Charlotte Mason recommended teaching simple phonics through playful games. After children start formal lessons,  she said that phonics are the second and less important task. So, first we introduce the word in entirety, and then we spend time working with an individual word and noticing its phonics patterns. 

Sample Reading Lesson: 

1. Lesson 1: Print out the words of a nursery rhyme in large font and cut out each word individually. Don't tell your child what the nursery rhyme is. 

2. Present one word to the child. Write it on a white board, and show the word card to your child. Draw their attention to how the word looks. Encourage your child to close his  or her eyes and imagine the word.

3. Introduce the first several words of the poem in this way. Then, put the word cards that you've discussed down into a pile. One by one, read the words you've worked on, and ask your child to find them in the pile. 

4. Lesson 2: introduce the rest of the words from the poem in this way. Then, read the rhyme to your child and help them arrange the words in order. 

Lesson 3: Take the word cards you've been working with, and have your child arrange them into columns, in any way that he or she would like. Then, have your child practice reading the words in their out-of-context order. 

Lesson 4: For a spelling and phonics lesson, take out your set of wooden letters, and spell one of the words in the rhyme. For example, maybe it's star. Draw attention to the -ar pattern. What other words can you build together that have the -ar pattern? 

Lesson 5: Present a new poem to your child. Ask him or her to search for familiar words in the poem. 

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