Very quietly, over the course of the long winter and first sweet days of spring, Grayson turned into a reader. With absolutely no fanfare he blossomed from that painful word-by-word (and sometimes syllable-by-syllable) stage into fluency with voices and chapters and reading just for fun.
When asked how I taught both boys to read--and love books--here's what I say:
1. Surround yourself with books. Books of all types, in all rooms, always accessible and always treated well. If you consider them special, eventually so will the others.
2. That said, make sure the books you have are quality. Short series (Boxcar Children, Magic Tree House), etc. are fine to spark an interest, and we certainly have our share of them, but if you want children who read increasingly good literature, you have to feed them a diet of increasingly good literature!
3. Read to your children, even after they're old enough to read to themselves. For us, breakfast and lunch are perfect reading times. We've read Heidi, Chronicles of Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, several Oz books, Tumtum and Nutmeg, and so many more. It's a captive audience!
4. Use a simple program or reader, if you want one, nothing fancy and complicated that's going to be more work for you than is worth it. I used Alphaphonics with Caiden and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with Grayson. We didn't finish either book--by about halfway, they figured it out and took off. Fifteen minutes a day, max, and the rest was spent reading to the boys randomly and just for fun.
5. Be a reader. If you don't value reading, and instead spend all your free time watching TV, it's going to be hard to convince your children that reading is worth their time. If, on the other hand, you celebrate their 5th birthday with a trip to get their own library card, and salivate when you pass by the local bookstore, you're probably well on your way toward inspiring young readers.
6. Above all, don't despair if your kindergartener isn't taking off reading. My two boys are polar opposites in just about everything, and it took one longer to "get it" than the other. Reading is part skill, part timing, and part "magic," and if you're relaxed about the process, you'll be surprised one day to look up and see that another book lover has joined your ranks!
Now we just need to figure out how to tie shoes and ride the bike without training wheels . . .