Back in my glory days of homeschooling, my daughters did a basics phonics program (I remember how basic: it was a set of letter cards from the corner store) in first grade. Once they learned the sounds of the letters I turned them loose on books. The earliest books were the I Can Read Series. Hop on Pop , The Foot Book and Red Fish Blue Fish; Are You My Mother, Danny and the Dinosaur, the Frog and Toad series.
And then, when they had mastered those by reading them all over and over, we used to go to the library and check books out once a week. We would go to the Easy Readers section at first, then we went on to the regular children’s section.
By second grade they were expected to read an hour a day, after lunch, but often read more on their own time. Because we had no TV and no computers, there was little to distract them from books.
I admit the two of them never had trouble learning to read. But nevertheless, it was a big moment for me when, having found out from some home school magazine that I should check their math and reading achievement, they took the California Test of Basic Skills in 4th and 6th grade, and they had topped the scale – both above 98% in reading. It was then that I realized our home schooling program was really working.
In today’s classroom, independent reading in finally “in”. No one has to convince me about this being good for kids — I was teaching independent reading before it was cool, and we also had the first SUV on the block, back in 1994.