Teaching their children to read is a major milestone for nearly every parent. Parents often try to get their children started with reading by buying workbooks on phonics and the like, but this can actually work against them, because in the long run, trying to teach reading using rote drills has generally proven to be ineffective. This is because sentence structures allowed by English grammar are many, and each workbook can likely only cover 1 or 2 such structures. The best way to teach children to read, is to expose children to as much English content as possible – in varying levels of difficulty, when the child is ready to learn.
Being Ready To Learn How To Read
Reading involves way more than just memorising letter-sound associations. If fact, here are a few things children need to pick up as they learn to read:
- Letter recognition
- Letter-sound associations
- Letter group – sound associations
- Exceptions to letter-sound associations
- Common sight words
- Blending letter groups sounds
- Spelling of words
- Assigning meanings to words
- Common sentence construction methods
This list can actually go on, but I believe you get the idea that we are trying to drive at. Let’s look at a few of the about steps in a little more details.
Letter Recognition & Letter-Sound Associations
This is basic. Children must first be able to recognise all the letters of the English alphabet in both upper and lower case. Then they should be able to sound out the general sounds these make if you add a short “a” to end of each letter. This means that children should know that the general sound for “B” is “Ba” – with the “a” sounding short and sharp.
Letter Group Associations
The next step is to increase complexity by adding vowels to letters and mixing it up a little. Vowels can be added as prefixes or suffixes, in any combination that parents can think of. For example, parents can add an “a” before the letter “t” and teach the child to pronounce the sound “at”, or add an “a” after the “t” and teach the child to pronounce the sound “ta”.
Exceptions to letter-sound associations
Parents have to also teach children the exceptions that exist in the English language, at least as far as phonics is concerned. For example, “ach” in “stomach” is pronounced very differently from “ach” in “attach”.
Common Sight Words
In order to speed up reading mastery, parents need to teach their children to recognise sight words quickly. These are words that tend to appear frequently in sentences like “he, she, it, that, the”. There is no definitive list of sight words to memorise, but the general idea here should be apparent. Parents can improvise and make their own list as their children gains mastery. As a child’s mental database of sight words increases, the child’s speed of reading will increase tremendously.
Blending Letter Group Sounds
Once a child is able to recall basic letter-sound associations confidently, the child should then be taught to blend sounds together. For example the child should be taught how to combine “ta” and “rt” to say the word “tart”. Learning to blend sounds is critical step in the learning to read. It is also sometimes to difficult to teach this concept, as it may be somewhat abstract to young minds.
Common Sentence Construction Methods
The English language is not the strictest language in the world when it comes to grammar rules. In fact, nobody really knows how many grammar rules there are in total and which of these are still valid in the modern world. So, when teaching children to read, it is important practice with good quality reading material from a variety of sources of different levels of complexity. This will give children the exposure they need to intuitively understand the different ways to constructing sentences that are grammatically correct and to recognise sentences that break the rules of grammar so badly that they are definitely wrong. It is through this process that children will also learn to use punctuation in sentences.
Immersive Learning Experience
The best way to teach a child to read, is to create and immersive learning experience. In fact, this is the best way to teach a child anything. So in the beginning, it will be difficult to get a child to sit down and mug out letter associations and sight words. Parents will need to create engaging activities that involve physical actions to keep children engaged when learning the basics. The good news, is that when children eventually find that they are able to read independently, they will sit down and start to read on their own and many children even go through a book-worm phase, where all they ever do is read, day in and day out!
Teaching children to read requires daily effort and practice. Parents should not limit themselves to structured lessons and should always encourage children to explore areas that have not been planned. Finally, parents should also keep in mind that teaching a child to read, is not just about teaching a child to pronounce every word in a dictionary. Instead, teaching a child to read is about giving children the opportunity to enrich their lives tremendously through literature and books.
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Brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team.
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