Teaching Your Kid to Read Sucks! Thank God for Public Schools or I’d Shoot Myself

Summary: If your child is hella smart I suppose teaching him or her to read could theoretically be fun. For me, it’s straight up torture.

I don’t rely on schools or anyone else to teach my child anything that is important. But to be honest, without the support of public schooling, I think I’d go crazy. I just don’t have the patience to handle this all on my own. My partner will second that.

Though she’s now over the hump with many sight words, for several months this was our evening reading routine. It’s getting better every day, and she is clearly learning to read, but some days it feels like someone’s playing one  big practical joke on me.

And no, I’m not one of those overachieving parents forcing useless Baby Einstein videos down my kid’s throat and testing her with flash cards while she’s trying to eat snack . She’s six years old and in first grade. She loves books and we’ve been reading to her every night practically since she was born. She’s just taking what feels like an eternity to catch on to this whole reading thing . It’s mind numbing to experience this on a daily basis.

For months this was our typical evening reading practice…and in many ways, it still is.

“tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh, tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh, tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh”

“That’s pronounced ‘the’. You’re just going to have to remember that. I know it doesn’t make sense. That’s why it’s called a sight word.”


“Yes, ok next word.”

“b, b, b…oaaa…”

“That’s a ‘d’ not a ‘b'”

“d,d,d… oaaa… guhhhh…”

“In this case that ‘o’ makes ahhh sound”

“d,d,d… auuu, guhhh….dauuug… dog. That says dog!”

“Yes. Great. Now start from the beginning.”

“tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh, tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh, tuuuh… huuuh… ehhhh”

“Jesus…that’s a sight word, you just said it one word ago. Don’t you remember?”


“It’s pronounced ‘the’. Now look at the word, point at it, and say it out loud.”


“With conviction.”

“What does conviction mean?”

“It means with certainty. Like you know for sure. Like how you’d say your name if someone asked you. So what’s your name?”


“What do you mean ‘Jennifer?’ Don’t you know your name?”


“Then what is it?”


“Great! That’s saying it with conviction. Now what’s this word?”

“tuuuh…huuuh…ehhhh, tuuuh…huuuh…ehhhh…”


Fuck you English language! Fuck you, fuck you, fuuuuck youuuuu!

And no, I am not making this up. I video taped a typical evening session  just to remind myself someday, when she becomes an excellent reader, that yes, even in our darkest moments there is hope.

Below are some of the book series we’ve used to help develop her basic reading skills. I recommend both of them even though it does seem like I’m trashing the first one.

The Bob Books

The Bob Books have possibly the worst art I’ve ever seen. Truly horrible beyond description. Looks like it was drawn by a mental patient. The stories are a bit weird too as each book centers on certain sounds which forces a storyline based upon simple words containing those specific sounds. Still, they’re based on sound science, they did the job, and my 6 year old daughter thought the stories were pretty darn funny. She didn’t notice the horrible art except for a few instances where even she was confused by the poor perspective. line work, and compositions.

Scholastic High Frequency Readers

Great artwork and more coherent stories. Each book is illustrated by a different artist. However the reading level is more difficult than the Bob books. When we got the set my daughter read the first three books out the 18 book series that morning. Later that night when we did our reading she read two more  pretty quickly. I half jokingly said if she finished them all tonight, then she can have a special treat after school tomorrow. Boy that lit a fire under her ass. She got a little sloppy from fatigue on the last two but she knocked off the other 15 books that night. Not saying she read them that well, but she pulled it off. Who knew? We went out and got a slice of princess torte at Hoffman’s Bakery the next day.

Update 4-2-10

Well it’s been five months since I wrote this post and she’s really gotten the hang of it now. The sight words are down and she’s tackling the harder words pretty well. She’s gotten so confident that sometimes she’ll intentionally misread words as a joke. We’ve had her enrolled in a twice a week reading tutoring program at school for several months now and it’s been really helpful. It’s a one-on-one session with another teacher who’s been trained to help emerging readers. The most interesting thing is that although she’s now somewhere in the middle in her class on reading level, she’s one of the best spellers. She aces nearly every test. I always knew these two skills were unrelated as I know many great readers and writers that are terrible spellers but I was surprised that it could work in the opposite direction. Apparently you can be a really good speller but struggle with reading as well. Who knew?

Update 11-11-10

Well she been in second grade for a couple of months now. They tested all the children and my daughter tested at a level equivalent to a second grader at the END of the school year. Yippie.  She’s on a roll now.

File Under: Teaching Your Child to Read – Tips for Young Readers – Children and Literacy – Good Books for Learning to Read – Kid Learning to Read – Early Readers – Young Readers

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