How I Make Learning How to Read Effortless and Fun

How I make learning how to read effortless and fun with Wizard 101

The Suzuki Method

The Suzuki Method is a method of learning how to play a musical instrument – developed by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki.  One thing he taught is that if you instill the desire to learn, the child take the steps to reach his/her goals.    I have seen it.  Before my daughter began taking violin lessons (she was 3 at the time), she was shy and unwilling to talk to the Suzuki teacher or any of the other students.  As part of the process to become a student, we had to observe 6 private lessons and 6 group lessons.  With the observation, and listening to violin music at home and in the car – it created a strong desire (in her) to learn to play the violin.  As a result of the desire, she came out of her shell, was able to communicate with the teacher.   She was motivated, excited, and interested in learning – and as a result, learned quickly and remained motivated throughout the process.

How does that relate to learning to read?

If you instill a strong motivation to learn – the “learning to read” process will be effortless.  Effortless doesn’t mean without struggle, it means with strong, unrelenting motivation.


Instilling the Desire

I accomplished this through fun.  Long gone are the days of reading about Jill, Bill, Lad, Ted and Ned – and how Ben chased them all up the hill.   In these days, we have tools readily available that will not only accomplish the goal – but instill a life long love of reading.

Wizard 101 was/is my chief partner in this process

Here is my secret and how my kids learned to read and love reading.

1.  With my kids beside me, together, we downloaded Wizard101 onto the computer.

2.  They set up their own characters.  They named them, they picked the color of the clothes, hats and boots.  They choose the school.

3.  I set up their account.  I allowed them to speak freely (an important part to the process).

4.  We then got online and started playing – together.

5.  When they started making friends (who talked) they wanted to know what their friend was saying.  (instilling the desire to know).  It was a constant -” what did he/she say?” or “how do I write this?”.  Annoying as it may have been, it worked like a charm.

6.  I helped them to type their responses on the keyboard.

7. During the process, we did do our phonics lessons.  We practiced penmanship.

8.  After a while, they became more independent.  They were proud of themselves when they were able to read a sentence – which made them want to do it more.

Ah ha!


Seems easy, right?

Some things for parents to look out for…

1.  To keep it simple, Wizard 101 has two chat options.  Menu Chat, where your child will not be able to talk freely – but has to use a menu to communicate, and free chat – where your child can talk out loud. The words appear above the wizards head.  You can basically say anything – except “filtered” words – swears, numbers, etc.


chat log in Wizard 101


With free chat, you need to be careful – talk to the child, put the computer in a centralized location (we put ours in a heavily trafficked area), or sit down with them and play along.  KingsIsle (the company that makes Wizard) put the menu chat there to keep kids safe.  If you are going to use wizard 101 as a fun learning tool for reading, you must take safety precautions to ensure your child knows the guidelines which you and KingsIsle put in place – and to respect those guidelines. 

This brings me to number 2.


2.  I don’t believe that you can put your child in front of a computer and he/she will learn independently.  It’s unrealistic.  There has to be some sort tutor, trainer, supporter – in place.  You have to be willing to sit down and play along and take an active role in the process.  This is essential.

For us, I got an account, and we worked together (initially).    After a while, he did his stuff and I did mine, but we were always sitting together at the table – side by side.

We used this as family time.  When my Mother was alive and living across the country, we would all play wizard together.  It was a great bonding/family activity.  I have very fond memories!  My son, daughter and I still do that today.  We are always playing together, helping each other out (in theory).


3.  The chat bubbles go away quickly.  Probably too quickly if a child is trying to sound out words.   You can always go back to the chat log and review the conversation (see the picture above).

This is where the parent comes in.

I needed to reinforce the idea – it’s okay if you are not following the entire conversation.  You read that sentence, and I will read the rest for you.   I will help you type and we will work together.  Initially, there is a lot of “me” time, and less “child” time.  After a month, it begins to switch.  The child will become more confident.  More and more, the child will be able to read and follow more quickly.

The other person in the conversation understandably will become impatient.  They say something and it takes you 5 minutes to respond.  Remain patient and keep your eye on the prize.  It will work.  Typically I just tell them that we are learning how to read, so give us a break.  That works 99.9% of the time.


I am not an unschooler

We have a traditional homeschool.  I use curriculum,  we do fact sheets – I am not an unschooler.  However, I was able to expand my mind to possibilities – to benefit everybody.  If your child enjoys playing games online (or video games), this method might be a good possibility.  You can harness that love for gaming and turn it into something positive.  In our case, I turned a love for playing wizard into a love for reading.  In my book, it’s a win-win!

About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. Hi Lisa,
    You’re right, to make reading effortless, kids need to develop inner- or self-motivation to read, and yes to, “unrelenting motivation,” because that drive, desire, and hunger has to come from within to make them leisure-time and lifelong readers, learners, and thinkers. Reading is really about an inside feel.

    Your post today is something I have worked on as an inner-city elementary school teacher since the late 60s with Latino/a and African-American children. My “Reading-and-Imagining Project” works on visualization, reflection, concentration, creative/critical thinking, communication, and affective skills for learning and learning how to learn. These “prerequisite fundamental skills” develop, improve, and expand a child’s self-motivation, and also, the capacity to educate one’s self (self-education). I am (I think I have already mentioned this to you) a regular BAM Street Journal blogger on the BAM Radio Network ( with a bunch of posts/articles on reading, reading life experiences, and motivating reading that might appeal to you and your readers. Here are posts from the BAM Street Journal:

    (1) “Johnny, Wake Up and Read, Wake Up and Read” (7/29/13
    (2) “Comprehending AESOP: Fables that Enable” (3/15/13)
    (3) “Vocabulary Creativity and Expansion: Imaginary Word Problems” (11/11/12)
    (4) “Motivating Ideas to Pump Up Adolescent Readers” (10/2/12)
    (5) “The Reading-Writing and Writing-Reading Connections: Two Ways to Get there” (1/14/12)
    (6) “Silent Reading” (12/27/11)
    (7) “Reading as a Three-Dimensional, Holographic, Virtual Reality” (12/11/11)
    (8) “Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation in Reading: Which is the Real Deal?” (11/15/11)

    So you and your readers don’t have any problems calling up the blog posts on the BAM Radio Network, they can also Google the titles of the posts with my name, Jeffrey Pflaum, and retrieve it this way.

    I believe that your readers will enjoy the posts and be able to apply it in their homeschooling situations.

    With warm regards,

    Jeffrey Pflaum

  2. Hi Lisa! I just found your blog via the BYB series. It’s really great that you are able to encourage your children to want to learn to read! My son is only 18 months old, and my husband and I are already trying to get the seeds planted for learning to read later on. I made a few worksheets for him with letters/pictures that he can draw on which he finds really fun. We live in a tri-lingual/bi-lingual household, so I am pretty worried that he’s going to be overwhelmed by the quantity of language, so it’s pretty important to us to get him … excited about reading/speaking/writing and wanting to learn more.

    May I ask how old your children are/when you started working on learning letters/sounds? Thanks!
    Yuliya recently posted…Boost Your Blog – Day 1My Profile

    • I didn’t start formally until my kids showed a definitely interest. With my daughter, she was watching me teach my son – so she was ready at 3. I made her wait until she was four, just because I think unstructured play is good for kids. I think they learn a lot from just imagination.

      However, we read to them all the time. We reinforced the importance of learning – and they respond.

      Thank you so much for participating in the blog challenge!
      Lisa recently posted…Weight Loss – I’m Doing it Because my Life is Worth itMy Profile

  3. You are a wise mother Lisa. When my kids were small, I always had old books, magazines, and textbooks laying around that they could write in. I would let them choose a word and they would use a color to circle all that they found. In this way they learned that word. The first word my daughter learned and remembered was SEARS, lol. It also became a game to recognize the words everywhere we went.
    Julie recently posted…Cleaning ScheduleMy Profile

  4. I have a reluctant reader, so new things are always welcome!
    Domestic Imp recently posted…Caption This Contest Winner!!My Profile

  5. Oh, and I’m here via BYB!
    Domestic Imp recently posted…Caption This Contest Winner!!My Profile

  6. You are definitely right on the fact that if we instill a desire to learn, they WILL learn. I never thought about using Wizard 101 to help them develop that desire to read, though. That’s a great idea! My small people like Animal Jam, which also allows chat. They have some friends that play also, so they’ve had to learn to read what their friends send them. I love how we can incorporate learning into their fun time. Stopping by (and following on Bloglovin) from Boost Your Blog.
    TaMara recently posted…The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted – Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  7. My seven-year-old has had a struggle with reading but we have found that computer ‘games’ designed to teach have helped. I’ll have to check this one out. Never considered the Suzuki method for reading – that’s how I learned piano – but it makes perfect sense! Thanks for giving me a new way to look at my child’s learning!
    Alanna recently posted…Bowling Alley Dance PartyMy Profile

  8. I totally agree with your ideas here! My youngest is 7 and is a reluctant reader. What is finally getting her there is finding a fun way to do it. We discovered Reading Eggs a few months ago and it’s been amazing watching her progress. We love to sit together and do the lessons. And she’s having fun while she does it.
    Tina recently posted…Boost Your Blog in 100 Days ChallengeMy Profile

  9. Very interesting. I had never heard of this reading program but my kids do love using the PC. I will be filing this one in the back of my mind for my two non-readers. Thanks for sharing step by step how you used Wizard 101
    Thaleia ( recently posted…Boost Your Blog in 100 Days- Comments Day 2My Profile

  10. Wizard 101 sounds like an amazing resource! I am going to check it out!! Visiting from BYB 🙂 So glad I found your blog!!

  11. Lisa, I love your way of making learning to read fun! My girls are 12 and 13, and it was pretty easy to teach them to read. They did both want to, especially my younger daughter, who is highly competitive and since her older sister could read, she was determined to learn also.

    Enter my 6 year old. In theory, he’s old enough to learn to read, but he does. not. want. to. learn. I’m learning to find things for him that he can do on his own, like Teach Your Monster to Read, Starfall, and some iPad apps.

    My girls used to play Webkinz with my inlaws, who live several states away. That was really sweet, and such a good way for them to connect with the kids. I get it. 🙂
    Beth recently posted…Boost Your Blog 100 Day ChallengeMy Profile

    • Hey Beth!

      Yes, the internet has made us all closer, hasn’t it? So nice that your kids could enjoy the time with your inlaws, and webkinz is a great game!

      Every kid is different. As soon as we think we know it all, another one comes to teach us some more.

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope you are enjoying the challenge!
      Lisa recently posted…Mommy Monday Blog Hop – Week 34My Profile

  12. So much information here, I have bookmarked it to come back and go over again! Visiting today from the BYB challenge… (fellow homeschool mother here)
    Kayla recently posted…Weekly Wrap Up 25 { Late }My Profile

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Kayla. I was just over at your blog a few minutes ago. Very rarely, do i meet a homeschooler that uses workbooks.


      Thanks for stopping by and participating in the challenge. Also, I host a homeschoollinkup on Thursday. You should join in!
      Lisa recently posted…Mommy Monday Blog Hop – Week 34My Profile

  13. I love the comparison of using “SUZUKI” to teach reading…I’d heard of it for music . Wonderful to think of it for learning to reading.
    Rebecca Reid recently posted…Boost Your Blog Challenge…Begins!My Profile

  14. I didn’t know Susuki starts with so much observation. What a great strategy. My daughter was taking violin. She tried two different teachers and was very resistant. We gave up on it and decided to try again once she was older but maybe it was just the wrong method. Great idea to teach reading and writing with gaming/online communication. I am trying to do that too with my son and his tablet usage. he will ask me to type for him but I will have him sound out and type at least one of the words himself. He is getting there but at his own pace. I want to check out that game too.
    Ann recently posted…Half Moon TreesMy Profile

  15. I love adding tools to my homeschooling tool belt! We are short on computers right now. My high schooler has first dibs, but I can tell my younger three would love this. I love your wisdom about being careful and putting the computer in a high traffic area.
    We keep screens completely visible in our living space. We also have a “hands up rule”. At any moment, I can say hands up and the computer user throws their hands in the air. I then walk over and inspect exactly what they are doing.
    Kids are very smart, and much more computer savvy than we. Keep them safe by holding them accountable!
    A Better Way to Homeschool recently posted…Hooked on Phonics Really WorksMy Profile

  16. You are such a wise mama. I know in our home, reading cards in board games was a huge motivator, too – as well as computer games. When my daughter was younger there was this fabulous playhouse disney online subscription that motivated her immensely. It was so well done. Fantastic post, my friend!
    Christine M. (Cool Mom) recently posted…Word of the Week: Two Guinea Pigs teach us about SYNERGYMy Profile

  17. Hi Lisa! I never heard of Wizard 101, thank you for bringing this to our attention. Aside from Wizard101, It’s important to read to your kids so they can grasp the words and their meanings and eventually spell them and teach them how to read by themselves.

    • Hey there,

      Yes, I just assumed everyone knew that they should read out loud to their kids. Sorry, I guess I should have said that, so i thank you for bringing it up. It’s important to read to your kids from birth. I read to my oldest, but am making him read by himself, and then giving him questions about every chapter. I think reading for comprehension is important for his age.

      It’s not difficult getting my kids to read. When they go to bed, they will both pick up a book.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your comments!
      Lisa recently posted… – Helping Parents to Help their Children be Successful Under Common CoreMy Profile

  18. This looks really neat. I’ll have to look into Wizard 101 more. It reminds me of teaching my kids to read- we used comicbooks mostly.
    I like what you say about not expecting children to just sit in front of the computer and learn independantly.
    Christy recently posted…Ideas for lesson plans and activities based on the Pied Piper of HamelinMy Profile

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