When my daughter was learning to read, it was an eye-opening experience. Of course I started with the basics: phonics. Introducing letters and the sounds they made was a simple job. She learned them quickly. But that was when the real work began. I soon found that the act of stringing the sounds together to make words wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It seemed that we pushed on for weeks with her sounding out words like c-a-t but never making them come together to form “cat.” I remember getting very discouraged, thinking somehow I was doing it wrong. I even began to question my decision to homeschool, thinking that I must not have what it takes if I couldn’t do the most simple of acts in teaching my oldest child to read.
Then, one day, it was as though someone flipped a light switch. “Cat.” “Dog.” You name it, she was suddenly reading it. We tore through anything we could get our hands on. I felt much better about homeschooling, and as she progressed from early reader to strong reader, many aspects of homeschooling became easier.
And then along came my second child, my son. Although he is different than his sister in every way, for some reason I made the assumption that teaching him to read would go much the way it had with his sister. At the beginning, it did. We started with a solid foundation of phonics, and started to take the next step into forming words. At that point we hit a brick wall. For some reason, my son had the hardest time putting the sounds together. We worked and worked, but for all our efforts he was reduced to frustration and even tears at times. I’ll admit there were days I cried too. Again, I questioned my ability to homeschool, at least with my son.
But, just as I was thinking he would never read, again someone flipped that light switch. One day, it just all made sense to him. Again, I was filled with relief that I hadn’t failed my child in teaching him to read. However, after a few weeks I was confused by the fact that he didn’t seem to be progressing past rudimentary sounding out words.
My son loves to play video games. His favorite is The Legend of Zelda, which involves a lot of reading. Up to this point, he had always asked me to read it to him. That’s when the epiphany struck: the next time he asked me to read, I told him “No. You either have to read it yourself or you can’t play.” So he started trying to read the dialogue in Zelda, and something amazing happened. His reading progressed exponentially in a very short time. Within months, not only was he reading proficiently, but he could read fast and retain basically everything he read. To this day he is an amazing reader.
Watching my son learn to read well through playing a video game taught me not to reject any learning opportunities, as off-the-wall as they may seem. His love of the Zelda game inspired him to try harder than any schoolbook I could give him, and I learned to let him follow his interests more.