Research has shown that children who read as a leisure activity every day will do far better in reading tests than those that do not. I don’t think many people would be surprised at that, but the same research also shows that those same children will also have better general knowledge and awareness of other cultures.
Even before birth, children learn to recognize the voice of their parents. Reading to your baby from the moment they are born provides comfort from hearing you, and it also increases the baby’s exposure to language.
There are two processes to learning to read. The first is the child learning to understand letters and word patterns. The second is to appreciate the meaning of what is read and to understand the value that reading provides for both education and entertainment.
In this article, we will take a very brief look at ten techniques that parents can try.
1. Make it Fun
It is crucial to make a child’s earliest experience of learning to read fun. You can do this by breaking the time down into different activities. By letting the child choose their own books occasionally and ensuring the activity is fun, this will instill a love of reading. Instilling a love of reading into the child is perhaps the greatest gift you can give.
2. Rhythm and Song
Parents should realize that children’s songs and nursery rhymes are more than just a fun activity. The rhyming and the rhythm of each song assist kids in understanding the way words are made up.
Clapping in rhythm as songs are recited is an excellent way of encouraging phonemic awareness, which can identify and juggle the individual sounds (phonemes) that make up spoken words. A child’s level of success in phonemic awareness is a good predictor of the child’s success in reading.
3. Expose your child to words, lots of them
Buy a large pack of adhesive labels and place them on objects around the house. For example, a label saying “book” on a book. A label saying “Bin” on a trash bin. By making connections between words and objects and what pattern of letters makes up each word, the child will be naturally making connections as they move around the house.
This can be extended into a game by asking the child to find objects that match the words you write on a pad. The opportunities are endless; for a more advanced activity, you can ask a child to find something that sounds like another (show them a “can” and see if they associate the word “pan” with it). Place as many labels around the house as you can. You will make a huge improvement in your child’s vocabulary.
4. Recognizing the sounds of letters
Make or purchase an “Alphabet Sound Chart” a large chart with the Upper case and Lower case letters displayed next to an example word that begins with that letter. Start by pointing at the pictures and saying the word, repeating this, and then asking the child to point at the pictures when you say words at random.
The second stage is to write new words down and repeat them a few times. You can then ask the child to point to the picture on the chart that starts with the same letters. Finally, the third way of using the chart once they have mastered the first two is to say words and get your child to point at the letter that starts the word you have said.
If they struggle, you can point at random letters on the chart and say the name of the object displayed. You then can ask your child, “does that start the same way?” Phonics is teaching children to recognize the connections between letters and the sounds they make.
5. Colorful letter magnets are great fun
For example, a great exercise for recognizing the consonant sounds is the split the vowel magnets and consonant magnets, into two areas of the fridge door. Then make up three-letter words with two vowels and a consonant in the middle (example: cat, dog, pig).
Place the two consonants in the middle of the fridge with a gap between them and repeat the word several times. Then let your child choose the correct letter to complete the word from the selection of consonants.
If they struggle, point at each consonant in turn and say the sound it makes, then ask if that sounds right. Magnetic letters can be used in many other ways as well. They are a great tool.
6. Keep learning to read enjoyable
Learning to read should be enjoyable. If the child genuinely hits a wall, do not just keep going on that same point, causing the child to become frustrated. Back up and try another way to teach what you are trying to achieve.
If a child gets frustrated, then learning to read ceases being fun, and the child will develop resentment. Since we aim to turn reading into an activity your child will choose to do, later on, taking away the fun is counterproductive.
Children love learning and showing their new skills, so let them learn by giving them opportunities to feel good about their achievements. Don’t make them feel bad if they don’t master a skill right away.
7. Talk about the books you read
When you read books to your child, allow time to talk about what you are reading and to slip in some questions for your child. When you read a book with your child, you are doing several things. First of all, you teach them how words sound when you read them.
You are also helping to develop their comprehension and increase their vocabulary. Your child is also enjoying a shared activity with you. Time is a precious gift that it is sometimes hard to give a child, and your time spent reading together is so important. Don’t just read, stop, and put the book away. Try to spend a couple of moments discussing what you have read.
8. Choose the correct type of book to read
There is no wrong type of book to read but children of various ages will probably respond better to different types of reading material. Even at the youngest age, they are sucking in information and laying the foundations for later stages. It is never too early to introduce reading.
(a) Birth to year 1 – Lullabies, colorful board books (with real pictures inside), and cloth books that introduce texture and songbooks.
(b) Year 1 to Year 3 – Rhyming books, Songbooks, short-story books
(c) Year 3 to Year 5 – Alphabet books, more songbooks, picture books, rhyming books
9. Use activities to increase vocabulary and word recognition
Learning to read is not just confined to books. There are lots of different activities that will teach important skills. One such “game” is to choose words appropriate for the stage the child has reached. Cut twenty playing card-sized blank cards. Then write one word on a card and then do it again.
Repeat this ten times until you have a total of twenty cards and ten words. Shuffle them. Turn the cards face down on a table and then take turns with the child turning over two cards at a time, reading out each word. If the cards match, then you have a winning pair and keep the cards.
If they do not, they are placed back in the pack, and the game continues until all the cards are used. Then shuffle the remaining cards and continue until all the pairs have been found. The winner has the greatest number of pairs. A variation is to use ten sets of rhyming pairs of words.
Adults sometimes get to the end of a page in a textbook and realize they have not really understood what the page has said. With adults, it’s probably because we are tired or we are thinking about something else.
With children, it may be they do not understand the page. When reading aloud with a child, make a point of stopping occasionally and asking a question like, “what do you think will happen next?” Your child may take the opportunity to launch a whole new dialogue where their imagination takes the story down a whole new road.
This is wonderful if it happens because your child is clearly placing themselves inside the story and understanding how books can encourage imagination. This child may well become an avid reader later.
11. The Easiest Way To Teach and Our Favorite Method (Bonus)
Final thoughts…a child who associates learning to read with pleasure is more likely to pick up a book by themselves later. We aim to create a child that will pick up a book and get lost inside the content, deriving hours of enjoyment.
They should also associate the book with discovering new things, which should be an adventure. The more games, tools, and techniques you use when first teaching a child to read, the more the interest will be retained.