Children learning reading

No forced phonics — No drilling — No frustration


Below Is A 3-Part Video Demo Of
How To Enable Self-Directed Learning

Watch Asya between the ages of 4-14 months then see the progressive
after-effect she has experienced over the proceeding 10 years…

VIDEO #1: Asya at 4 months, 20 days

VIDEO #2: Asya at 9 months, 18 days

VIDEO #3: Asya at 14 months, 18 days

Asya’s Mom & Dad Simply
Read To Her In A Relaxed Fashion…
…Every Day, Multiple Times Per Day

They often read the same book to her 2 or 3 times per day. Her mom noticed how it would calm Asya. Eventually, she began to repeat certain details by herself, looking more and more each time:

They Took Books While Travelling Overseas

Asya’s first book (same as in Video #1 above) was like a teddy bear, a travelling companion for her. And she always had books, pencils, & paper…
…even the Rome Travel Guide (below-left)!

Just Holding Books Became Something
Joyful & Natural
— Even “Adult” Books —

Asya Loved To Look At Menus,
Quickly Realizing That Reading Had
Real-World Applications

It Was A Great Way For Her To
Connect With Family & Friends

Whenever a visitor arrived she would, inevitably, go to her bedroom
and bring back a book to read with them:
(scroll photos left-to-right)

– Especially Grandparents –

But She Also Spent Hours
Choosing To Read By Herself

Her parents had the self-control to give her
space to “read” by herself while by her side,
without falling into the role of “teacher”.

Asya would mostly be reading from memory
and filling in the rest with gibberish,
but all with appropriate tones,
mimicking how her parents read:
(scroll photos left-to-right)

Not To Mention Spending
Hours In Book Stores

Her mom would choose quality book stores.
Asya would choose her own books.

children learning reading

Of Course, She Did Other Things Too!

Activities were simply for fun with some
having the added benefit of developing fine motor-skills:
(scroll photos left-to-right)

By the time she was 3-and-a-half, she could repeat and recognize letters. Then she started making comparisons out loud between words, with sets of letters.

For example, her name Asya and the word for “lion” in Turkish, aslan — in this case, the “as” sound (in English it sounds like “us”).

At Age 5-and-a-half, Asya Read
Her First Book All By Herself…

…without anyone having “taught” her
phonics or given any explicit instruction:
(scroll photos left-to-right)

Children Learning Reading Naturally
Has Many Hidden Benefits

  • Their learning facility developed from teaching themselves to read is more adaptable to other areas of their life, like learning a foreign language;
  • They won’t resent their parents for forcing them before they were ready;
  • They are more likely to be voracious readers when they are older;
  • It is simply more enjoyable and satisfying for both child and parent.

For example, as Asya’s self-directed learning continued to grow, she read, wrote and drew more and more. Now she has a big box full of writing, drawings and other projects.

Below are two examples:
(scroll photos left-to-right)

At age 4-and-a-half, inspired by the work of Julia Donaldson:

Both of these were initiated without having been prompted or pushed. Asya didn’t mind getting help from her mom for the princess book because they just worked together on a fun project. Her mom never tried to create a “teaching” moment. In turn, this built up Asya’s self-confidence to eventually complete projects by herself, like the animal newspaper.

Asya’s animal newspaper she made at age 7:

By Age 7, Asya’s Reading Habit
Was Picking Up Even More Steam

It didn’t really matter whether we were camping, travelling around Australia on a 5-week holiday, or just going for a Sunday stroll around a nearby village; Asya had a book in her hand…

She took about a dozen books on our 5-week holiday. She read them all at least 3 times.

Shortly after this, Covid hit and during that period Asya’s self-directed learning blossomed. Despite minimally invasive obligatory online lessons with school, she was essentially unschooled for 12-18 months.

By that stage she was 8-9 years old and was reading copiously, drawing every day and absorbed in writing continuously.

One particular story stunned a few native Turkish speakers because of the depth of its language. Unfortunately, because it was in Turkish I couldn’t quite appreciate the quality of her writing.

But I understood comments like “…many adults couldn’t write like this…”

And on one occasion, a person even suspected she had received “help”, which was simply not true. On top of that, neither of us tried to “teach” or even correct/mark her writing.

children learning reading

The point is Asya’s writing was a direct result of her being a voracious reader…

Children Learning Reading
In A Natural Way
Develop Their Writing Skills

When Stephen King was asked whether good writing can be taught, he said:

“It can be learned but I’m not sure it can be taught. It’s a self-taught kind of thing. I think the best writers are voracious readers who pick up the cadences and feel of narration through a number of different books.
You begin by maybe copying the style of writers that really knock you out.
But little by little you develop your own style.”

children learning reading

As Asya approaches 12 years old,
she continues to write furiously and
constantly talks about writing…

The “2-for-2” Set Of Benefits From
Children Learning Reading Naturally
Like Asya Did

For the child:

  1. It has deeper, long-term benefits where reading remains a joy; and
  2. It acts as a confidence-builder knowing they can apply the same intrinsic concentration and determination to teach themselves any subject or skill.

For the parent:

  1. It’s a huge bloody relief(!) knowing they can detach themselves from the idea they need to play the role of “teacher”; so
  2. It acts as a huge wake-up call knowing their child has the resilience to be an independent learner.

In terms of how to teach kids to read, a parent unable to detach themselves from the role of “teacher” means they usually end up at some degree of forced phonics…

All “Teacher” Roles With Reading
– Unfortunately –
Lead To Forced Phonics

I know this might be a provocative statement for some.

After all, phonics is “proven to work” and it’s a “great way to give your child a head start” so they “don’t fall behind”.

But these are all loaded statements.

“Head start” and “falling behind’ are residue statements from the obsession of teaching children at an earlier and earlier age, year after year, under the banner of early childhood education.

“Proven to work” – yes, it can work for some but at the cost of, at best, taking away their opportunity to explore for themselves and, at worst, teaching them that reading is a chore and something to despise.

And then, of course, for some others it plants seeds of low-confidence, feelings of inadequacies and incompetence.

Any Kind Of Explicit Instruction
Is Limited

“Across many, many different cultures it’s something that adults understand – that children will learn better if you don’t teach them explicitly.
Of course, if someone wants to learn something explicitly, that’s great. If they don’t want to do that, that’s fine too – however they want to do it is great.
But it’s interesting to know that in a lot of cultures it’s kind of taken as a given that people will learn better and more deeply and more solidly if they learn through experience and experiment and figuring things out on their own, rather than being instructed explicitly.”

– Carol Black, from Episode 37 of the “Exploring Unschooling Podcast” 
Unschooling mom, creator of the documentary “Schooling the World” and the co-creator of the TV Series, “The Wonder Years”

Practical Thoughts From
Asya’s Mom On Her Experience

  • I was meticulous about reading the sentences and repeating the same informational phrases in exactly the same way, every time. This naturally kept Asya’s attention by making it familiar for her.
  • A few friends use to mock me for doing this, like I was a psycho robot or something! But I didn’t care. I knew Asya loved it which was the most important thing.
  • We would often read the same book over and over again, often two or three times in a day. For example, we continued reading her 1st book (from Video #1) for probably six months.
  • Asya began repeating certain details about the books by herself, as she looked with more and more detail.
  • She started doing so in the same tone as me, modeling my expression.
  • She liked to look at some books by herself but there were some that she especially liked to continue reading with me.
  • She started making comparisons out loud between groups of letters in different words. It was wonderful to witness such a beautiful demonstration of self-discovery, or self-directed learning.
  • I never tried to “teach” her or show her something I deemed “important”  that I thought she “needed to know”. For example, I never sounded out words. I just read naturally.
  • I never tried or had the inclination to teach her phonics. That would have been boring for her (and me). Besides, she started to discover those kinds of things by herself:

    First – she learned individual letters; a, b, c, d, etc.
    Second – she started joining two together, “as”
    Third – she started joining groups together, “as” and “ya”
    She discovered her name! Asya!

  • If she asked me how to say a particular word, I’d repeat and let it sit with her.
  • If she asked me any other technical kind of questions (which was rare), I would always try to keep my answers brief and in a way that made it seem like I was discovering it with her.
  • If she asked me any questions or offered thoughts about her ideas (which was often), I would indulge her.
  • Her father and I were always reading by ourselves, too, so Asya saw that we actually liked and placed importance on it. Naturally, she tended to want to imitate us.

The most important thing for us was that she loved spending time with books and that she saw it as something fun and natural. The rest took care of itself.

Is Asya’s Case Isolated?
Can Other Children Who Are Learning Reading
Develop As Seamlessly As Her?

Asya’s case is not isolated. For one, my brother and I also taught ourselves. And there are countless other examples. A parent just needs to get past:

  • the addiction of forcing phonics; and
  • the artificial idea of grade levels.

Forcing kids to learn to read is not necessary because all kids learn when they are ready.

If a parent can follow what Asya’s parents did and employ the 4 key elements, like my parents also did with my brother and me, then once children decide to teach themselves to read, their progress will be rapid.

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Copyright 2022 Mick Holmes;