He's 90% self-taught via a more 'whole language' versus 'phonics' approach. I've tried to fill in the phonics gaps with slightly more formal instruction. Research will show time and time again that phonics is the better method but when your 3 year old is teaching themselves, whatcha gonna do? Teaching him to read kind of feels like jumping onto a moving train because he's learning at such a fast pace. By the time I research what to teach next, he's already moved beyond that. I promise I'm not bragging nor do I think he's exceptional in any way. It's just my psychologist side is truly fascinated by how we learn such a complicated skill. I felt the same way when he was a toddler learning to talk. Exciting times!
The first books Forest read were BOB books, level 1. These are simple phonics based readers with a short sentence per page. There is a bit of a storyline but nothing too interesting.
Then we moved on to 'I Can Read' Readers at the 'My First Shared Reading' level. Our favorite were definitely the Biscuit series and we also got a little Biscuit phonics set to go hand in hand with these.
One criticism of these readers is that they are based on a whole language approach and so the lower levels are not that great for truly beginning readers who need a phonics foundation. We found the Biscuit books to be less offensive in this than the major character lines. We have a Pete the Cat book at this same level that is actually considered to be at the 1st-2nd grade reading level. So yea, that would be a little discouraging for an emerging reader!
The 'Now I'm Reading' phonics readers are also a great tool in building on phonics skills.
I found these a little late in the game but it actually worked out. We went straight to level 2/3 and started to close some knowledge gaps in terms of long vowel sounds and letter blends.
The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems were the first 'non-reader' books that Forest read.
These are seriously great. Such fun to read. Simple, clever, and silly (i.e. perfect for preschoolers). We Are in a Book is the best!
National Geographic Kids, Level 1 Co-readers.
I include these because they were pivotal in getting Forest excited about reading, which is probably the biggest piece of the puzzle. He's a smart kid, but definitely a perfectionist so getting him to challenge himself is a struggle. Asking him to read a full book on his own cold turkey was just was too intimidating. With these books they have a page for a parent to read and then a page for them. He loved the taking turns format of these books and I think it helped to take some pressure off that he wasn't expected to read the whole book himself. He's since moved on to reading level 2 of these (again, says level 2 but is actually rated 3rd grade reading level) and is super proud of himself. He definitely loves science and non-fiction books so these have been a big helper in getting him excited to learn more and push himself. He really wants to read 'Robots' which is a level 3 so he's been practicing to get to that level.
The Fire Cat. Level 1 'I Can Read' reader .
This one is such a confidence builder! The text is beginner level but the paragraphs are lengthy and the story is actually broken into 3 chapters. Forest feels so accomplished after reading this 'chapter book' all by himself.
Berenstain Bears- Cat in the Hat 'I Can Read it All By Myself' series.
These classic, old school originals are hilariously silly. Forest actually peed his pants the first time he read The Bike Lesson because he was laughing so hard.
Lots of rhyming, phonics, repetition, and slapstick comedy make these a super fun read. We own The Bike Lesson and The Honey Hunt and they are two of F's favorite books in our entire library.
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett.
Forest is not *quite* reading Chapter books on his own. I think that's the final step in fluency. BUT if your preschooler loves books, these are great for reading aloud or shared reading. We've read a few other chapter books with Forest, but none have captured his heart and imagination like this trilogy.
Honestly, I think the most important factor in raising readers is captivating them and creating warm memories of curling up with a book.
My Mom asked me the other day what I remember most about my Grandma Fern. It wasn't her sugar cookies or Mississippi mud ice cream. I still have vivid memories of curling up in her lap on her recliner, resting my head on her chest and reading together. It was a magical time that sparked a lifelong love affair. I still give her credit anytime anyone asks me where my love of reading comes from, and I just hope I can pass that spark along to my son.