As a public school educator, I was trained that early literacy is what truly matters. However, over the years, I have read about literacy extensively and learned that we do not actually need to push early literacy on our children.
Instead, we can embrace a gentle and wonderful journey to reading as a lifelong pursuit and interest. Miss Mason, a Victorian educator known for encouraging nature study as well as delaying the beginning of "school" until the age of 6, also had a specific approach to teaching reading.
On pages 199-221 of Home Education, Miss Mason provides careful instruction for the educator teaching a student to read. Let's go over how to teach Charlotte Mason reading lessons together step by step.
Below, you can watch a video (where are my visual learners at?) and learn about Charlotte Mason reading lessons if you'd prefer that type of content. Otherwise, scroll to keep reading!
When to begin Charlotte Mason Reading Lessons
According to Miss Mason, we don't start formal learning until age 6. However, that doesn't mean children aren't learning and that doesn't mean that the parents cannot engage with the child in a fun way during the early years before age 6. Miss Mason suggests placing a box of wooden letters in the child's play area where they can easily access them. We did this early on (around age 3) and when our children investigated those letters, you'd better believe that I shared a little about the letter sound or pointed out the shape, etc.
Prior to age 6, the child should be read to often. We begin our days with 3-5 picture books each morning. This builds the child's habit of attention as well as helps them begin to see the relationship between letters and words.
Avoid pushing the child to know the letter names before age 6 and even once you begin some formal instruction. Focus on the letter sounds (phonemes).
Around age 6, many students are ready to begin Charlotte Mason reading lessons (if they become easily frustrated, or don't seem to be catching on, wait a month or so and try again).
What you need to get started with Charlotte Mason reading lessons.
A moveable alphabet
This will be your bread and butter for teaching your student letter sounds and word building. You will use these in every reading lesson.
Real stories or nursery rhymes
In her book, Home Education, Miss Mason shared it like this,
“At this age, his reading lessons must advance so slowly that he may just as well learn his reading exercises, both prose and poetry, as recitation lessons. Little poems suitable to be learned in this way will suggest themselves at once; but perhaps prose is better, on the whole, as offering more of the words in everyday use of Saxon origin, and of anomalous spelling. Short fables, and graceful simple prose…are very suitable. Even for their earliest lessons, it is unnecessary to put twaddle into the hands of children” (p 205).
Miss Mason encouraged educators to use books that respect the child's intellect from the very beginning. She called books that are watered down to use simplistic vocabulary and basic words "twaddle". She knew that students would want to read interesting stories from the very beginning.
Slate & chalk or dry erase board & markers
Students will use these regularly as well, so invest in this early and have it ready for Charlotte Mason reading lessons.
This is the perfect way to begin learning to write letters and words.
A basic notebook of any kind for the child to record the words they master.
How to begin teaching Charlotte Mason Reading Lessons
Firstly, your child should learn all of the letter sounds. This means they can see a letter and know the corresponding sound. Once this is accomplished, you can begin Charlotte Mason reading lessons.
Here is an additional thought from Miss Mason's Home Education as you begin:
“…Let us recognize that learning to read is too many children hard work, and let us do what he can to make the task easy and inviting” (p 214).
We like to begin our reading lessons with some review or word introduction. It looks like this:
1. Choose a nursery rhyme or short story.
2. Write out a few sight words for your child on individual cards of strips.
3. Instruct your child to look at the word and try and get a mental image of it.
4. Have your child build the word with the moveable alphabet from memory.
5. Have your child locate and read the word in the text.
6. Practice and review word families. Choose CvC words like cat or hop and practice subsitizing new sounds at the beginning and end to create new words. This is a phonemic awareness activity that really supports their readings kills.
7. After the child is fluent with the sight words for the story, slowly work through reading the text.
8. Have the child record well known and easy to read words in their words journal.
This whole process above often takes 3-5 days of reading lessons. It is a slow and steady pace where you work in short lessons to keep the child's interest and attention. A reading lesson for children 8 and under should not exceed 20 minutes in length.
Some final thoughts.
Our children will learn to read. What we want to do is preserve their enjoyment and love of reading. Reading takes practice and hard work on the part of the child. Respect your child, praise and reward them for their dedication to work through hard things.
If you feel you need a curriculum for your Charlotte Mason reading lessons, these are some we specifically have enjoyed:
Prior to age 6:
100 Gentle Lessons in Letters and Sounds
Ages 6 and up:
100 Gentle Lessons in Sight and Sound
If you have any questions about this method, feel free to ask below in the comments.