Expert Advice: Teach Young Kids How to Read in 100 Days

Reading proficiently by the end of third-grade matters more than many of us could have ever dreamed possible. The National Research Council asserts that “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.”

Let’s break that down. Our children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are less likely to graduate from high school, which reduces their likelihood of attending post-secondary education, which reduces their earning potential over their lifetime. That’s a lot riding on one skill.

I know that most of you reading this inherently understand the value of reading and learning, but adding data to that “gut feeling” adds a sense of urgency to the situation. Suddenly, making sure a student can read feels especially vital.

What can we do to help our kids?

At a conference a year ago, I met a man who mentioned a book that he’d used to help his children learn how to read. His enthusiasm for Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and proclamations of success was so overwhelming that I ordered the book before I had left the training. After receiving the book, I quickly learned that his enthusiasm was not misplaced.

My daughter and I began working through the book last summer. The authors suggest doing one lesson each day for about 20 minutes, and they provide a fully scripted text for adults, so there is no guessing as to what you should be saying to the young person you are teaching or how to correct them when they make a mistake.

My daughter and I had made it about halfway through the book before we stopped when she started attending school. However, about a month into quarantine, I decided I was over trying to cobble together the packets sent home from my daughter’s school, and we started using 100 Easy Lessons again.

We are now on lesson #75, and my daughter can read multiple paragraph texts. Let me slow down and say that again…my six-year-old is reading multiple paragraph texts with relative ease. I can’t wait to see how well she’ll be able to read 25 lessons from now.

Start at the Beginning

100 Easy Lessons starts at the beginning by reviewing the sounds associated with each word. This photo is an example of an extensive pronunciation list.

The First Lesson

The book starts with the most basic concepts, but that’s exactly what kids need–a strong foundation to learn skills and develop their abilities. Below is an example of the first lesson, which looks quite different from later lessons which are much more complex.

Writing

The book teaches more than just reading, and children are taught how to write their individual letters at the end of each lesson. Below is a photo of my daughter’s first lesson.

Below is a copy of her most recent lesson. Notice a difference? The book doesn’t request that she practice her numbers, but we have math flashcards purchased from the dollar store and we always practice writing at least one number along with her lesson.

The book gives explicit instructions on how to write the letters, which is consistent with the method taught by kindergarten teachers across America.

Reading

Below is the reading for the 75th lesson. Note that she only reviewed letter sounds in the first lesson, and now she’s reading the full text. As you can see, the stories are odd, but they deliberately use words they’ve learned so that children can practice them consistently. This book has taught my daughter not only decoding skills that help her sound out words, but also basic comprehension and prediction skills.

What can I expect?

Please don’t think this is the going to be easy to do with your child…at least not at first. It took us a while for us to hit our stride because my girl is so much like me–she is a perfectionist and loathes making mistakes. It took several lessons before she was able to make a mistake without a meltdown. (Provided a great opportunity for her to practice her growth-mindset and me to practice my patience!)

I would often initiate the lesson by asking my daughter where she wants to work on her lesson—the sofa or the table. I know I’m probably supposed to insist on sitting at the table. But, I have found that letting her have the autonomy to choose her lesson location has made our time together much less strained because it’s going to happen, but she gets to exercise choice over where it happens.

These lessons are not something the child can do on their own; they have to have the adult actively working with them for the entire lesson–that means your full attention is on your child for the duration of the lesson. It also means that you need to be in a right headspace before you begin working together. For me, the “right headspace” means that I have my coffee in hand and my phone in a different room.

Who can use this book?

The authors suggest that you can start this program with pre-school-aged students. However, this book is not meant for children who have been taught how to read and are “poor readers.”

A Reading Example

Below is a short video of my daughter reading a segment from one of the stories from 100 Easy Lessons. She doesn’t read it with as much enthusiasm as a Mo Willems’ book, but as you can see, she’s come a long way.

I adore reading and the way that a good story can transport you to another place and time. But what I love most about reading is that it opens the door to new knowledge and opportunities. More than any physical gift I could purchase, teaching my daughter to read might be the most valuable gift I will ever give her.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

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