CBD: At what age should children begin to learn to read?
LS: Whenever they start showing the desire. Some will ask about letters, sounds, and words as early as age three, while others will not seem interested until they are older. The desire to read is the biggest indicator that the child is ready to learn. Parents can get their children ready by doing phonemic awareness activities. Then, when they show the desire to read, they will have more success learning.
CBD: One of the basic tenets of whole language is that children naturally learn to read and write. How does a phonics approach differ from this view?
LS: A premise of whole language is that children learn to read much like they learn to talk. I believe this leaves a lot up to chance. It has been proven that not all children can learn in this way. When teaching phonics, I teach every letter and the sounds they make in different situations. I review each letter until the child has mastered the letter and its sound. Everything is directly taught, and I never assume prior knowledge or that children will get something on their own, since I never know for sure if they have been exposed to what I want them to know.
CBD: What teaching strategies can home educators use to enhance the connection between phonics and reading comprehension?
LS: Again, home educators should not assume prior knowledge. Once, I asked a group of students to read some paragraphs in my Phonics Intervention program, and I was stunned by some of the things they did not know. One word the students highlighted over and over was country. When asked, they admitted that they really did not understand its meaning. I have found that one of the best ways to help comprehension is to ask students to read a paragraph and then explain its meaning in their own words. Using this technique, I can quickly find areas of confusion or things students do not have the background