Many young parents often ask the question, how can I teach my child to read? In this article I hope to address this question. As a home education mum and ESL teacher, I would have to say that teaching my own children to read would have to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Children don’t usually start to read books until around 5 to 6 years of age which may be due to our society’s expectation of them. So don’t be pressured into thinking by the many reading programs available on the market, that your 2 or 3 year old needs to be able to read at their age. Remember, all children learn at different rates, some are ready to start reading at a younger age some aren't ready until they are a little older.
The following article has also been written to provide information and teaching strategies that may be beneficial for parents with children from babies upwards, even if your child is ready or not to learn to read. Please don’t implement these strategies all at once, nor expect your child to understand what you are teaching them in a few short days. Remember that teaching a child to read can sometimes be a slow process and the following information is provided for you to apply when you think your child is ready to start some of these teaching strategies.
Reading with your child
Teaching your child to read should be encouraged at infancy. You can start to develop your child’s love for reading in the early days of welcoming your child home! The time you spend reading with your child will form a part of that special bonding time for both of you, reading to your child encourages their love for books. The more you encourage that love for reading the more your child will enjoy reading. Research has concluded that starting your child young is one of the best methods used to gain reading success in school-age children. If children are not encouraged at home to learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability to learn other skills in their future.
I suggest reading 2-3 children’s books a day at least 4-5 days a week or more, even when your child is young but don’t make reading a duty because you won’t enjoy your time with your child and your child will pick those feelings of duty that you have and it will only serve to discourage them. It is completely up to you how much you read to your child.
As your child gets a little older and can sit still for longer periods you may be able to make reading a family goal, around 15 to 20-minutes a day should be enough only if you’re squeezed for time. There are always many young reader books to find in the book stores and supermarkets, make sure you take your child along and observe their reaction to the books you pick up from the shelves. Rhyming books, song books, short story board books, alphabet books, picture books and cloth books are just a few of the varieties that are available. You could also use computer aided story books as your child’s interest in reading grows. If you’re short on cash simply visit your local library.
Be a good example
Most children love books from a young age but a child’s love of books will dwindle if they don’t see good reading habits demonstrated at home. If you are not reading books yourself how can you expect your child to read books, a conscious effort on your part and your husband’s lets your child see that you both read and enjoy it. Read a novel or a magazine, cookbooks are always a winner with young children, especially if you show them what’s on the menu. Make it known to your child as they grow that reading provides a goldmine of learning. When you’re reading you will generally be learning about something too, which is great for you also.
I often use the Bible; if you are a Christian it is one of the best books to let your child see you read and there is so much to share and learn from it. Make sure to show your child that reading is fun, even for the rest of the family. Don’t make the mistake of getting wrapped up with what your children should be learning and forget that children learn most things by example. So take a load off your feet, grab a book and relax, better still put your feet up, it helps to stop those veins from swelling and reduces your stress even if it is for 10 to 15 minutes.
Relevant and practical development
Children learn best when things are relevant to them, make sure you stimulate your child’s learning with hands-on projects, also known as experiential learning. This type of learning produces longer retention and is more meaningful to your child. When your child shows an interest in the things around them identify those letters and words that are relative. Implement simple activities that incorporate as many of your child’s senses as possible. Remember that learning letter names is important but learning the sounds of them is far more important.
There are many resources that are available to you to incorporate practical development of letter recognition and even whole words with your child’s early-reading skills. Letter crafts are a good way to allow your child to learn the shape of letters along with the associated sounds the letter makes, while utilizing their fine motor skills in the process of colouring, cutting, gluing, pasting and creating their work of art.
Playing games like moving letters in a shape on the floor or stacking them or getting your child to pick up a letter and give it to you after they have scattered them over the floor are ways to incorporate gross motor skills. Make sure to look for your child’s strengths and areas of interest and target activities that fit them, they may like music so incorporate it. My first boy was captivated by cars, in fact it was his first word spoken (car) so I used that interest and created activities around that theme and bought books about cars, trucks, busses and the list grew.
A reading program I have written and used, find it on the link below:
Asking questions while you and your child are reading not only is encouraging your child to interact with what they are reading but it is an effective way to develop the ability to comprehend what is read. If you are concentrating your child’s attention to much on punctuation, pronunciation or sounding out the words it will become boring for your child. Don’t whatever you do make it your only objective to get your child to sound out the words while they are reading; it makes it boring for them. Children that read with fluency still might not understand what they read. There is no point to reading if your child does not comprehend what they read.
For example if your child is very young ask questions like: “Do you see the car?” while pointing at the picture of the car. Not only will this develop his vocabulary, it will also encourage interaction with the book being read. As he gets older get him to point to things in the book, even sounding out the noises of the things in the book. For example, if he sees an animal make the sound of that animal or the sound the horn of a car might make or the hum of an engine.
Young toddlers respond well when you ask questions throughout the reading of any book. Show the cover of the books you read to him and ask each time what he thinks the book is about (predicting). While reading, ask him what he thinks might happen or why he thinks a character in the book made a particular choice (inferring). If the story depicts an emotion of a character, ask your child if he has ever felt that way (relating). At the end of the book, ask if his prediction(s) came true. After reading the book get your child to summarize to you what he remembered from the book. Each of these techniques is a great way to promote and increase reading comprehension. You can modify them as required to suite your child and the books you are reading.
Help children identify letters
When our five children were growing up I placed a laminated picture chart of letters in their room. It was quite large and only hung in their room while I was teaching them the letter sounds, the letters on it were actually drawn out of the first letter of the object or animal related to that letter. Each time it was hung up in each child’s room questions were asked about each picture. I was surprised how effective that chart was in helping them to learn the sounds of the letters. I also used other relevant written text in our every day life like signs, clothes motifs and product labels and basically where ever text was written….. Surprisingly most text can be relative.
You can buy flashcards and ‘Learn to Read’ programs to teach your child letters and the sounds but whatever you do, don’t force your child to learn letters and respective sounds from these tools. Allow your child to be a child and take advantage of the relative learning moments as they come along. Your child’s mind is very capable of memorizing the alphabet from these drilling programs and used on their own is not the most effective way to produce the best results. Your child will be more curious about the print seen around him and will ask questions when he is ready to learn, capitalise on those moments.
Sounding out words
Sounding out words (or articulation) is an important part of teaching your child to read. Once your child knows the sounds, even if they have only mastered some of the sounds letters make you can begin putting words together. When looking at a short word, encourage your child to say each individual letter sound like r - a - t, and then put them together “rat”. As your child decodes words faster, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying words. Don’t let this task become tedious, it is very important to find creative ways to make it fun and interesting.
Phonemic awareness activities help children understand blended letter sound patterns in words. It is an important skill to teach your child as they read because it allows a child to begin grouping sets of letters (letter blends). As you know, most words are made up of parts (syllables) and the more your child recognizes the letter blends of words their reading ability will increase exponentially, in other words…. their learning increases quickly by large amounts.
When your child starts to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction you will need to formulate or categorize your child’s understanding of the different types of books written. It is also about this time in your child’s life where you will get an idea of interests or direction your child may take in life; although very relevant it is another subject I’ll write about another time.
There are a few different types of children’s books.
- Non-fiction books (true stories, factual information about animals, places, people and many other topics).
- Fiction books (make-believe, can not happen in real life, unrealistic).
- Realistic Fiction books (Stories that could happen in real life or depicting situations that could be believable).
- Poetry books (can be fiction and non-fiction and contain small stories).
- Alphabet Books.
- Song Books.
When your child is encouraged to categorize a book into its respective area they have to summarize the book in their mind and recall the details of the information. This technique will help your child relate to other books they may have read and when used it also has the ability to increase understanding and recall ability. The best books for this exercise are found in the area of fiction, non-fiction, realistic fiction and some poetry.
Remember that the goal is for your child to comprehend what they’re reading…… if no comprehension is achieved; reading will be boring for them. Encourage your child to think about and process the books they read, in doing so you are modelling their love for reading and learning for their lifetime.
Are there any better ways to teach your child to read? I can only say there are many ways to teach reading but the best methods to use are the ones that work with your child. In my article (Four main methods to teach reading) I suggest that you try to incorporate them all or just a few but most importantly use what works with your child.
The many strategies used for teaching reading can be easily modified for your child. Remember that every child learns differently so don’t get bogged down on just one or two methods, also don’t rush your child or get stressed because your child is not up to where you think he should be.
Below I have summarised the teaching strategies discussed in this article that you can implement when teaching your child to read.
- Make your child’s reading a fun time.
- Read with your child as often as you can.
- Ask questions while you are both reading.
- Lead by example; let your child see you reading.
- Work on phonemic awareness (letter sounds within words).
- Capitalise on the practical use of letters seen around you.
- Have a good variety of books available or visit your local library every week.
- Help your child to categorize each book.
- Lastly, don’t make reading a chore
© 2012 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications