We never taught her how to read.
As most unschoolers will agree, when surrounded by literacy and given appropriate time and space, the vast majority of children will learn to read naturally, on their own terms, without instruction or worksheets, phonics or curriculum. They learn to read because reading is an essential tool in our modern world and children are perfectly designed to recognize and learn the important tools of their culture.
Professor Peter Gray writes about natural learning and reading quite a bit, including in a recent post where he examines the reading wars and why natural learning fails in classrooms. He states: "While children out of school learn what and because they want to, children in school must learn or go through the motions of learning what the teacher wants them to learn in the way the teacher wants them to do it. The result is slow, tedious, shallow learning that is about procedure, not meaning, regardless of the teacher’s intent."
As Peter Gray writes in this post on children teaching themselves to read: "As long as kids grow up in a literate society, surrounded by people who read, they will learn to read. They may ask some questions along the way and get a few pointers from others who already know how to read, but they will take the initiative in all of this and orchestrate the entire process themselves...Each child knows exactly what his or her own learning style is, knows exactly what he or she is ready for, and will learn to read in his or her own unique way, at his or her unique schedule."
When we trust our children, and surround them with the free and abundant resources of our communities, we provide them with everything they could possibly need to learn, to grow, to blossom into the distinct, fascinating people they truly are.
We don't need to show them the way.
We need to get out of their way.