Reading Curriculum


Reading Curriculum for Preschool:
(I may refer to this grade as Pre-K2) 
Reading Curriculum for Kindergarten:

  • Lesson book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
  • Reading Games/Sight Words
  • Picture books for reading-as-a-team
  • Literature from a classical curriculum book list and a contemporary book list
  • Library Trips
  • Kids Book Club
  • Handwriting practice
  • Personal and Family Scripture Study

Letter-Sound Bean Bags
Letter Sound Bean Bags

Because I had a hard time finding lower-case phonetic alphabet manipulatives, I made letter-sound bean bags to match the sounds we would encounter in 100 Easy Lessons.  They've turned out to be #1 on my list of most used school supplies. 

 Ideas for Practicing Letter Sounds with Bean Bags
Trace the letter with your finger while saying the sound
Play “say it slow” while slowly passing the bag back and forth
Play “say it fast” while playing catch
Play “say it loud”/”say it soft”
Put the bag on your head, say the sound, then let it fall off to see if you were right
Play “swat”: place multiple bags in a lineup and pretend they’re bugs.  Say one of the sounds and swat it with a fly swatter (or any other object) as quickly as you can.
Play “hot lava” by placing the bags on the floor like stepping stones.  Step on the stones to cross the hot lava, saying each sound as you come to it.
Associate an action with each sound (such as riding a motorcycle for “mmmm”)
Play “hotter/colder”
Just hide them around the room like Easter eggs
Make a match with other letter manipulatives; help them “find their mommies.”
Use them as basketballs
Use them as baseballs
Play golf
Use them as bowling balls
Make a train out of them, say the sound in front
Make a pocket chart: (put them each in a shoe pocket with a tiny prize hidden behind.  Every time they find the sound in their environment, they get to take out the bag and keep the prize. )
Tickle them until they say the sound
Play “Superman”: Superman has to carry them all in a stack while flying around the room.  If any fall, he must say the sound in order to "save" them.

Preschool Everything: the Learning Time Bag

For preschool, I like to combine all subjects into one daily event, something I call "the Learning Time Bag."  It never takes more than about 15 minutes to go through everything in the Bag.  Letter sound bean bags are one thing he might find there.  

Learning Time Bags
 These are reusable grocery bags.  The idea is, I can stock them a week at a time with whatever we're using and they're ready to go.  The bag reminds him that his attention is expected; it's not playtime and it's to his advantage to follow directions.  Half-way through the year I got lazy and stopped using the bags, but he still associates "Learning Time" with the same expectations.  

He loves the element of surprise.

That first day of school, the bag contained Easter eggs (okay, so it was August, who cares . . .) with magnetic letters in them.  We went on a letter hunt:
"Where's the letter that says 'mmmmmm'?"

He's closing his eyes while I hid eggs.  To give him hints, I would play warmer/colder; I would sound out the letter softly if he was going in the wrong direction, and louder as he came closer.
Hey, no peeking!

Letter Sounds Before Letter Names
I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention the radical experiment I'm forcing upon my children.  I decided to see what would happen if we banned the alphabet song from our home.  It's taboo.  Seriously, we haven't sung it since [C] was 18 months old.  Okay, we're a little crazy, but it's less about censorship and more about learning the basics in a logical order.  When do you need to know the alphabet?  Not until you start alphabetizing things.  That comes long after the ability to read.  When do you need to know letter names?  Not until you start spelling.  That also comes after reading.  I postpone it because I've noticed that children become frustrated when they are suddenly asked to recall the sounds letters make not be able to tell the difference after all the work they've put into memorizing their names.  That's 26 letter names + 42 basic letter sounds to learn before they know how to tell the difference.  
Granted, I've only taught one child to read under this philosophy.  But she learned early that she had all the elements necessary to parse out the world for herself with confidence.   

We also teach lower-case letters before upper-case.  It helped tremendously with reading, and by the time [C] started learning capitalization rules, she was mature enough to figure out the pairs on her own.  
So are we crazy?  Maybe.  Or, maybe the alphabet song is a waste of time.  It turned out [C] magically learned it, despite our ban, just from hearing it outside of the home.  (It's EVERYWHERE.)  Letter names are introduced around lesson #80 in 100 Easy Lessons.  At that point, readers already have a solid aptitude for sounding out words.  

As if we weren't already weird enough, we don't teach the letter sounds in alphabetical order.  We teach them in the order they are presented in our reading book.  The letters they learn first are the ones that are going to pop up first in simple words.  
So for example, "m," "s," "t," "[short] a," "r," "i," "th," and "[long] e," are taught early, whereas others are saved for later.  The sooner they realize they can read, the better.  

C-'s first lesson on the alphabet.  Turns out she already knew it.  
Action Cards

I loved these Alphabet Action Cards from (thank you, free printables!): they associate the letter's sound with an action.  I use them for [A] when he learns a new sound.  Then if he ever needs a hint, I do the action instead of saying the sound.  The letter "M," for example, has a picture of a motorcycle and prompts you to pretend like you are riding a motorcycle while you make motorcycle sounds: "mmmmmmm . . . "                             

  When it comes to the library, we are heavy users.  Our local librarians may love us or hate us, but they all know us.  Since I'm a "teacher", they were able to broaden the book limit on my library card.  I signed [C] up for her own, so that I can use hers for overflow.  It's normal for us to have 40 or 50 books checked out every two weeks.  Although I let the kids browse when we're there, I always have a big stack of holds waiting for me behind the counter.  Every two weeks, by self-imposed appointment, I sit down and make reservations.  Chasing kids through the stacks is hard enough without having to track down what I want.

(We checked out these cute puppets from the library in a kit called "Creatures of the Night" which included picture books and activities on nocturnal animals.  Judging by my librarians' reactions, I'm the only patron who ever uses them.)

I decided to focus on literature from two lists this year.  The first list is a list of titles considered essential to a classical curriculum .  I have loved it.  They tend to be much more difficult than I expected.  In turn, the kids have proven that they are much better listeners than I ever thought possible.   The second list we're reading from is a contemporary one.  This list is compiled by an author whose work I hate.  He has stayed true to his promise, though, in listing books that kids love.  They are bestsellers, brightly illustrated, and modern.  Some of them are terrible.  Others are hilarious.  I wanted to know for myself what's out there; to better understand the current popular culture my kids relate to, and to not miss out on any gems. 
I keep a record of our favorites on Goodreads, so I won't have to read through the whole list with the next child.
 (Be my friend! Go to  They each have a bookshelf. Won't it be cool if they have a complete list someday of all the books they've loved?  I'm keeping track until they can.  Someday, I would love to imitate this project of a magnetic book tree (from the blog Satori Smiles): 


I found him like this.  The book is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
I have [A] to thank for storytime being a success at our house.  He gave up his naptime this year right around the time I was too morning-sick to do anything about it.  So we replaced it with an hour-long storytime every day.  They love it.  They want it to be longer.  We take turns choosing books (I get to pick too!).  It's a great way to incorporate that beautiful nonfiction book on spiders, a  classic chapter book, or a book on historical princesses.  The theory is, if they don't want to listen, they can always lay down and take a nap instead.  (That's only happened twice.  And I think I was the one caught sleeping.)

Nursery Rhymes 
The Annotated Mother Goose

I started off the year reading The Annotated Mother Goose while we ate lunch.  I didn't sustain this practice, but until I quit (nausea+food+reading-induced motion sickness=not a good combination), we loved to memorize our favorites together.

Kids Book Club  
We participate in an awesome kids book club that meets once per month, taught by moms.  (It counts as social time and reading and art.)  When it was our turn to host, we focused on Jimmy Zangwow's Out of This World Moon Pie Adventure and made spaceships out of cardboard boxes. 

[C] getting stuck during the design phase
I think this was a hit. 

I admit, they were really cool.  I wish I had taken pictures of the other kids' inventions.
"Up, up, up, and out of this world!"

Reading Lessons (Kindergarten)
[C] started out the school year around lesson #40 of Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  
We have taken it slowly, supplementing with games and picture books and extra handwriting.  I cannot recommend this book enough.  [C] and I started when she turned 3, though I'm not saying that's a rule to go by.  I knew she was ready because she would sit in my lap while I was reading to myself, sounding out words one after the other.  (She knew 42 sounds by this point, which allowed for a lot of experimentation.)  
[C] , almost 3 years old
As I listened, I noticed she began making the same mistakes consistently, and making up her own rules to justify them.  It became clear that she was going to learn to read whether I taught her or not.  I wanted to be a part of it.  I wanted to see it and to delight in it and to wonder in it all.  So we got started.  

I've been lucky enough to watch her emerge and have loved it.  These days, she's immersed in words.  I'd call her an independent reader.  She'll often sneak off with a picture book and read it on her own, or with [A] as an audience. 

She had periods where she detested the lesson book and we pushed on carefully. It's given me a chance to work character-building into our curriculum.  Here are some mind games I've played to get her to plow through:
  • "Ah, but see, this here is a magic butterfly pencil, and if you don't know a word, it will sound it out for you."  (She automatically assumes the dainty squealy voice a magic butterfly pencil would most certainly have . . .)
  • "When you finish, we're having a snack . . ."
  • "You focused so well when you were reading that, I'm going to take off another five minutes."
  • As long as it's working, I'll let her read upside down or with her eyes closed.
  • When learning new words, she likes to make up stories surrounding them, usually involving herself and cookies or flying or parties.
  • Sometimes we use a magnifying glass.
  • I've had success teaching a doll while my daughter listens from the sidelines until she can't bear not to interrupt with corrections.
  • We move to the computer and I type the stories while she reads off the screen.
  • Sometimes we'll go back and read old, easy lessons to appreciate how far she's come.
  • The whiteboard works beautifully.  She gets a kick out of it when she can read faster than I can write.  And when she finishes what I can fit on the board, she gets to eat a grape.
  • She makes me think of song lyrics containing a new word until she'll move on to the next one.
  • "If you can finish this before the minute hand gets to the "3", we can be done for the day . . . if you haven't finished, then we have to read until it gets to the "5."  (25 minutes of squirming, negotiating, and pouting, + 5 minutes of speed-reading in which she flies through what should take her much longer, = 30 minutes of reading lessons.)
                                Reading Games/Sight Words

I had good intentions to incorporate extra practice with sight words by playing reading games.  We made it through part of the year doing this, but in the end, it was left by the wayside.  (Doesn't it seems like the popular trend is an over-reliance on sight words?  I'm afraid it produces frightened readers who will only attempt a word if it is one they know.)  Here's a great list of games to play, though, if I get the chance with the next kid: Sight Word games from Carls Corner

Enough said.  We read broadly, deeply, and daily.  I am living the dream.  


  1. Hey Anita, I'm Jenni one of Paul's many cousins. I don't believe we've met but Aunt Syd told me about this blog. I plan on homeschooling my three kiddos and I am enjoying what you have posted so far.

    We had been going back and forth between homeschooling (what I really wanted) and public school (what my hubby and son wanted). They won and he went to kindergarten. Long story, short, horrible!!! Neither my husband and are a happy at all.

    Anyway, I think what you are doing with your kiddos is great and they seem like adorable genius'.


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