As far as learning milestones go, reading is one of the most important for your child. It is a skill that most adults take for granted, often forgetting how profoundly difficult it is for young kids. In order for children to acquire reading skills, a number of complex changes must occur in a child’s brain. Certain neural connections must be formed and the child must be developmentally ready before this can happen. These days, parents are feeling pressured to push their children to read at younger ages than ever before; however, most children will begin to learn to read somewhere between three and five years old.
Some kids will still be struggling with reading at age eight or nine. It is important to note that children learn to read in different ways and at different times; because of those differences, a wide range of reading activities should be used to address the individual learning needs of children. As a parent, having an understanding of how reading works and the best ways to teach reading can help you in supporting your child. Here are five strategies you could use.
1. Reading to Your Child
This is all about making the words on the page real for them. Reading to the child will give the words meaning and make them interested in the messages being conveyed by the book. Letting them see the pictures and words as you read and giving each character its own distinctive voice when reading aloud can further enhance the experience; making the story even more interesting and enjoyable. All of this creates the perception for the child that books are repositories of knowledge and contain fascinating and entertaining things. Enthusiasm about books and stories will motivate children to learn to read. Additionally, reading to kids helps them to get better at comprehending language and identifying simple words.
2. Help Them to Learn the Alphabet
The alphabet denotes written sounds and is thus a fundamental part of reading. It is also relatively easy to teach. Once a child knows their letters and the sounds that go with them, they have the foundation for literacy in place. One simple way to teach the alphabet is to use a whiteboard and say the name and sound of each letter as you write it. Make sure to always focus on the sound, as this will be essential for decoding words. There are many TV shows, DVDs and websites that you can use as visual aids when teaching alphabet sounds to young children.
3. Teach them to Decode
Decoding means sounding out each letter in a word in order to decipher it. This is the next step in learning to read after a child has an understanding of the sounds associated with each letter. Decoding should start with simple, one-syllable words and then progress to more complicated words and “sight words.” This part of the process requires lots of practice so you should find a range of different activities to make it more entertaining. Using novelty items such as magnetic letters for kids may help you with this.
4. Ensure That Books are Accessible
Encourage children to read on their own by giving them access to books. If you don’t have a lot of books at home, visit the local library each week and borrow books for your child to look at, at home. Find books with colorful pictures and simple words that your child can look at independently. Also choose books for you to read to your child to continue developing their love of reading and stories. Comics and children’s magazines are also a great resource to have around the house.
5. Set a Good Example
One of the most important strategies for teaching a child to read is to create the desire to learn in the first place. As a parent, the example you set is very important; your children will naturally want to imitate your behavior and habits. When they see you with an open book or looking at text on the screen of an e-reader, they will see reading as something that grown-ups do regularly. You should also point out how you use text in your environment such as when reading signs, directions or instructions, as this is one of the things that will instil an interest in learning the skill.
Despite the fact that there are workable strategies for helping children to read, it is not an easy task. It will take persistence on both your parts, especially if you are home schooling your child and going it alone. On the upside, young children tend to pick up basic reading skills very quickly, especially when using a phonetic approach. Once they have acquired those basic skills, it is important to encourage your children to practice reading as much as possible to continue their learning journey to reading success.
This article was written by Racheal Tighe, an Australian primary school teacher who runs Little Learning Planet, a website dedicated to helping children learn to read. You can catch Racheal on Google+ as well.