Teaching Your Kid to Read Before Kindergarten

Reading has been such a stressful topic in our house for what feels like years now. I wish someone would have told me (they probably did but I just didn't listen) when Jay was younger that it wasn't a huge deal for him to be reading before kindergarten. As a disclaimer, this post is in no way intended to shame anyone who did teach their kid to read before kindergarten, but is more intended to give comfort to parents whose children are not. 

We homeschooled Jay all the way through preschool and the very first month of kindergarten. (We might actually homeschool him for the first half of next school year, but that's a post for a different day). For Jay's preschool curriculum, I bought him the first set of BOB Books back in July of 2016, a month before he turned four-years-old. In addition to that we also did several workbooks, worksheets, flashcards, everything and anything to get this kid to read, and nothing worked. The only thing that happened was that it almost always ended in us both being stressed out, and the entire thing ending in tears for him. 

I think that so much of this is culture based too. In Georgia, everyone sends their kids to preschool, and where they go is kind of a big deal, where as here in Utah, I'm not sure there is the same preschool pressure that we experienced back east. The entire time Jay was four though, everyone kept telling us that "kindergarten is the new second grade", and "Your kid has to know how to write an entire paragraph on their own before they can go to first grade." We heard so many claims like this, it's enough to make any parent stress out. 

At the age of four Jay could tell you every letter in the alphabet and what sound it made, and he could look at a word and tell you what sound each individual letter made, but for the life of him he could not put the sounds together to come up with a word. We had things like "r-e-d... ball?" It was a mess. Finally, I was talking to my sister-in-law about this and she was telling me that being able to sound out a word, and then say which word it is, is a process that just happens at some point in the brain, and there really isn't anything parents can do to speed up the process. It just clicks one day, and until that happens, you just have to wait and not push. 

After she told me that and I thought about how much pressure I was putting on Jay I decided to just all together stop caring about the reading situation, and decided to let his kindergarten teacher take care of it. Especially since my sister-in-law told me her daughter who is 11 months older than Jay, but the two of them are both in kindergarten, told me her daughter wasn't able to do it yet either, I figured there were worse things in the world than not being able to read before going into kindergarten. 

Jay is now over halfway though kindergarten and I'm proud to announce that he is reading. Is he reading at a second grade level and blowing through books on our bookshelf? No. But he has successfully made it through the second set of Bob Books (after owning the second set for only two weeks now, versus the year and a half it took to get through the first set), and we're in the process of ordering the third set. 

His teacher sends home sight word flash cards for us to work through with him each week, and she sends home little books for us to read at home together too. When Jay has mastered the sight word rings, and the little books, we send them back to the teacher and we get sent home with new ones. During parent teacher conferences I asked the teacher what she thought about us holding Jay back for a second year of kindergarten before sending him off to first grade and she said, "that would be a weird thing to do for someone who is at the top of the class." (Which isn't me trying to sound pretentious, but trying to convey that I don't think the kindergarten bar is nearly has high as everyone thinks it is.) 

As of right now, in the third quarter of the year, all of Jay's grade ranks are "at grade level", or "above grade level", and I know there are kids in the class who are reading more and far exceeding the work that Jay is doing. What I hope other parents get from this is to take a deep breath (like I wish I did much sooner), and realize that kindergarten isn't this place for only the choice and most elite students. I volunteer each week in Jay's class to help with the reading centers, and there are kids who still don't know which sounds all the letters make, and those kids are fine too. 

Do I think I made the right choice in not red shirting my kid with an August birthday? To be honest, I don't know. It's something that I still question, even three fourths of the way into the year. Even with him excelling and getting the grades he is, I just don't know. I don't think that it's something that I'll have an answer to for a few more years. He could go into first grade, and crumble, and then we'd assess the situation and see if we'd hold him back then, but as of right now, so far so good. 


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  2. Thank you for posting this. I have a daughter with an August birthday and she's in preschool right now as the oldest in her class. Her older siblings all took off with reading well before kindergarten and I've been a little concerned that she...hasn't. She shows a lot of interest...wanting to read books with me, make flashcards and books and helping her toddler sister learn letters. I'm not sure there's anything I should/could be doing without really pushing, and I've been hesitant to do that. I'm so grateful for this bit of validation! She'll get it when she gets it and she'll be just fine. Thank you, thank you!!!

  3. Use a phonics only program and it will help tremendously (Alpha phonics or Hooked on Phonics).

    Just my opinion, but "sight words" aka whole language programs are NOT GOOD, they just make learning to read a nightmare. Stay away from sight words, trust me.