How to Teach Your Child to Read
Knowing how to teach your child to read can help ensure a love of language form and early age and encourage intellectual development. The following ‘how to’ gives a number of different tips that will help your baby pick up words quicker than other children.
1. Read to your child. Teaching your child to read is a process that begins at infancy. Begin reading with your newborn within days of welcoming them home! Not only is this a special bonding time for the two of you, it instills in them a love for books. Enjoyment while reading is one of the single greatest predictors of reading success in school-age children. If children don’t learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability sometime down the road. Aim to read at least 3-4 baby books a day (yes, you will have to repeat often), even while your child is very young. As they gets a little older and can sit for longer stretches of time, make it a family goal to read together for at least 20-minutes each day. Some tips on which types of books are appropriate are: Birth to 1 Year- Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books. 1 Year to 3 Years- Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books. 3 Years to 5 Years- Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books
2. Ask questions. Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing their ability to comprehend what they are reading. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can’t comprehend what they are reading, there really is no point to reading at all! Questions should be appropriate to their stage of development.
3. Be a good (reading) example. Even if your child is fascinated with books from an early age, their fascination will quickly dwindle if they do not see reading modelled by a parent. If you are not an avid reader yourself, make a conscious effort to let your children see you reading for at least a few minutes each day!
4. Identify letters in natural settings. This is called “environmental print” and includes all of the print we are surrounded by–fast food signs, labels, traffic signs, clothing, magazines, etc. Flash cards on necessary, instead, point out letters when you see them to help give context, relevance and meaning.
5. Appreciate the power of cross-sensual development. Children learn best when multiple senses or areas of development are engaged; hands-on learning produces longer retention and more meaningful application. Once your child has shown an interest in letters and you have already begun to utilize natural settings for identifying those letters, begin implementing activities that incorporate as many senses as possible. Keep in mind that learning letter names isn’t nearly as important as learning their sounds!
6. Classify the Genre. Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together. This might seem complicated, but it’s really not. There are around 5 different genres of children’s books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one. Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember: Nonfiction (real stories or facts about animals, places, people, etc), fantasy (make-believe, can’t happen in real life because of magic, talking animals, etc), realistic fiction (a made-up story, but it could technically happen in real life because the characters and situations arebelievable), alphabet Books and song books. When children classify a book into a certain genre, they have to first summarise the book in their head and recall details. Then they have to use that information to decide which type of genre that particular books fits into. Finally, your child will be recalling details from other books in the same genre, making connections between the two. This simple activity that might take 5-10 seconds of your time after reading a book but it certainly packs a punch of thought and processing in that young brain! Do this exercise only with high-quality children’s literature, not with books that are attempting to get your child to “sound-out” on their own. Most picture books found in children’s libraries will fit into one of these genres.
7. Identify word families. Word families are words that rhyme. Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading. This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word. The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime. Word families share a similar “rime” as the onset changes. Once your child recognises the word “map”, for example, they’ll then have an advantage to reading all of the other words that have the same rime (tap, cap, nap, rap) because only one letter is changing. Plus, recognizing rhyming words is a great language skill in itself!
8. Concentrate on Phonemic Awareness and Phonics. “Phonemes” are the smallest sounds in the English language. These sounds are made up of consonants, short vowels, long vowels, and digraphs. ”Phonemic Awareness” consists of learning those sounds and how to manipulate them within a word. Digraphs are unique sounds comprised of individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc. “Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows. Phonics is an important components of reading/spelling, but it should never be the main focus. Again, we are looking to balance our literacy “program” with reading comprehension as the end result. Learning the rules of phonics is simply a tool that helps a child learn to decode and spell
9. Sound it out (decoding). Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.” This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn’t the most important. Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes (which is taught in real, meaningful situations), they are ready to begin putting words together. When looking at a short word, encourage them to say each individual sound /b/, /a/, /t/, and then put them together “bat”. Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it’s important to find creative ways to make it fun.
10. Work on helping them appreciate ‘Sight Words’. Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don’t follow the rules of phonics. Because of this, they must be memorised.
Learning should be fun. The second it I forced onto your child it becomes a chore and may turn your child off for a very long time. Take care in the zealousness of your teaching!