Remember that song from "The Sound of Music" where Maria wants to teach the von Trapp children how to sing? Her idea was to start with the main pitches/notes on the scale and move onto words and songs once the kids had the basics down.
Well that's the approach I've been taking with teaching Owen how to read. The first step was to teach him all the letters of the alphabet. I have used a few different techniques to do that, including several apps on the Kindle (thank goodness for the Super Why! app.....he loves playing the letter games on there). It's beyond clear that he knows the alphabet.
The next step is to begin identifying words. This is often known as teaching sight words. This part was a little trickier for me. Owen hates flashcards. He always has, mostly because it means having to sit still and focus on pieces of paper. That's not very interactive for him; he really wants to be involved in the process and he wants it to be fun. And let's be honest.......flashcards aren't all that fun!
I looked up some more apps on the Kindle that specifically target sight words, most of which come from Dolch word lists. These lists are what is taught in preschool and early elementary grades. I also decided to sign up for an account with ABC Mouse which has some great online activities like matching the words and pictures, rhyming, and hearing the sounds of letters and words (which Owen randomly tries to imitate--I'm not pushing him, but it is VERY cool to hear him try this!). We do have a plain set of flashcards on a large book ring with the pre-primer list of Dolch words and I pull them out during mealtimes and run through them quickly. I also give him the set and let him look through them. When he holds a card up, I say the word, spell it, and then say it again. He seems to like that approach too--it's probably fun to demand something from Mom once in awhile instead of the other way around!
We have been asking him to find certain words when we read books too. At first we would say, "Find the word Elmo. It starts with the letter E." We did it that way for a few weeks and eventually we were able to just say "Find the word ____." and he has been able to do it for quite a few words. We can also say "Find the word red. Ra-ra-red." and he will find it. He knows the sounds of letters.......who knew that a non-verbal kid would understand and identify words based on phonics??
At this point, he recognizes and identifies the following words: Mom, Dad, Owen, red, blue, green, black, dog, fox, bear, Elmo, owl, deer, eagle, turtle, up, down, in, out, can. I plan to make several posters with all the level 1 Dolch words as well as words we find commonly in the books he enjoys the most. He's very much into animals, so that's why he seems to be catching onto those words quicker than others.
This is such a fun and exciting thing to teach Owen. He loves books and this seems to be an activity that he is really enjoying. I know he wants to read his books on his own and I often find him in his reading corner, sitting on his chair with his finger under the words on a book's page. Since I'm a huge reader, I really want to be able to share this love with Owen. We will continue with these methods as he learns more words and moves onto harder Dolch lists.