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 challenging it can be for young kids.
For children to acquire reading skills, several complex changes must occur in a child’s brain.
Specific neural connections must form, and the child must be developmentally ready before this can happen.
To make sure they pick up reading quickly and enjoy it, I’m going to show you some of my best strategies to use to help your child read.
Let’s Be Realistic About How to Teach Children to Read
These days, parents are feeling pressured to push their children to read at younger ages than ever before.
You want to know how to help your child read to get them set up for success as early as possible.
However, most children will begin to learn to read somewhere between 3-5 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 can address the individual learning needs of children.
This developmental stage is also where any reading difficulties which could arise from conditions like dyslexia may surface.
Noticing early on if your child has any reading difficulties lets you adjust and assist them in an informed way so they can overcome these challenges.
As a parent, having an understanding of how reading works and the best ways to teach reading can help you in supporting your child.
Without further ado, here are 6 things you can do to help your child read.
6 Strategies To Help Your Child To Read
1. Read to Your Child
It’s 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 conveyed by the book.
It will also help them expand their vocabulary in a fun and exciting way.
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.
It makes the story even more exciting and enjoyable.
You can run your finger along the lines of the book as you read, pointing at characters or objects in the pictures to help your child associate words to images.
Books for very young children often feature one or two lines per page.
This lets you point out simple words and details to your child and familiarize them with words, descriptions, and vocabulary, without overwhelming them with information.
All of this creates the perception for the child that books are repositories of knowledge and contain fascinating and entertaining things.
Enthusiasm for books and stories will motivate children to learn to read.
It also teaches kids to visualize the written word, which can significantly improve recall and memory.
By making reading fun, your child will look forward to the next story-time, and be more likely to remember parts of the book.
They’ll chime in with you during their favorite parts and recall details and words with ease.
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.
A straightforward 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.
Let them write it out too.
For tactile learners, the act of writing out letters as they learn them might help them improve their abilities to recall the alphabet (and later, words).
There are many TV shows, DVDs, and websites that you can use as visual aids when teaching alphabet sounds to young children.
Kids can have a ton of fun playing games featuring interactive characters to learn alphabets, phonics, and spelling.
Of course, the alphabet song is a fun way of teaching kids, too – sing along with them and make it into an enjoyable activity for both of you!
3. Teach Them to Decode
Decoding means sounding out each letter in a word 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.”
You probably remember learning words like “bat,” “cat,” “sat” from your early days in pre-school.
You can ask your child to think of other words that rhyme with a simple one-syllable word.
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.
When I was younger, my parents and grandparents would call me over and ask me to read out simple words for them from newspaper headlines, packages, or road signs.
It made for a fun little activity, making learning interactive, especially with the encouragement of family members.
It also made me interested in trying to read things out on my own.
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, or take them on bookstore trips for rewards and gifts.
Find books with colorful pictures and simple words that your child can look at by themselves.
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.
While getting them these resources, make sure you’re actively exploring what your child finds interesting.
Some will adore fairy tales, while others might want to read about dinosaurs, or space, or marine life.
Feed your child’s curiosity and interests to make reading a fun, exciting exercise.
5. Use Audiobooks
If your child doesn’t have the patience to sit down with a book, despite your best attempts, it may have something to do with their preferred learning style.
It’s worth finding out what learning style best matches your child since you can then tailor activities to best suit them.
For instance, visual learners may be better at interpreting pictures and words on the page or screen.
But auditory learners may find listening to the material more natural and more entertaining, as well as helpful in following along.
As a child, I had a cassette tape containing a set of six stories, read out loud by a narrator who acted out the voices of all the different characters.
By listening to the voice and following along with words on the page, I had fun enjoying the story.
I was able to read the books by myself soon enough, and could even remember some of them word for word.
6. Set a Good Example
One of the essential 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 crucial.
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.
It would help if you also pointed out how you use text in your environment, such as when reading signs, directions, or instructions.
This is one of the things that will instill an interest in learning the skill.
Always make sure you give your child plenty of positive reinforcement.
They are laying the foundations of one of the essential life skills they could develop, which they will be building and relying on throughout life.
Make sure you praise them when they get words and spellings right, and give them time whenever you’re able if they express an interest in a book or story.
If they are not settling down to read, be patient.
Adapt your reading time to their learning styles, and keep an eye out in case your child is displaying any sign of learning difficulties.
Remember, this does not make a child any less intelligent.
It merely makes them learners with different strengths, which you and your child need to make the most of together.
Although 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 homeschooling your child and doing so 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, encourage your children to practice reading as much as possible to continue their learning journey to reading success.
And those are my best tips for parents to help your child to read!
Did you find them helpful?
Which of these tips to help your child to read are you thinking of trying first?
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.
[ Updated – October 7, 2020 ]