Teaching children to read can be a daunting task for parents, especially if parents try to teach children to read when they are not ready. Realistically, parents can expect children to only start reading independently after they are 6 or 7 years old.
However, parents can definitely lay the foundations in vocabulary and letter recognition during the child’s early years to enable the child to pick up reading quickly and comfortably when they are ready.
Alphabet Song & Posters
- Sing the alphabet song to your children, as many times as they are willing to listen.
- Let children watch the many versions of the alphabet song on YouTube.
- Put up posters around the house displaying various letters of the alphabet
- Ask children to point out the individuals letters and correct them gently if they make any mistakes
Children as young as 3 are often able to recognise the individuals letters of the alphabet even though they may not be able to vocalise the sounds, but parents can start introducing letters to children as young as 2 years old.
Recognising and reading phonics may be a tall order for children below the age of 4. However, parents can still introduce short words to children below the age of 4. At this age, children will start to learn words based on pure memory. Words like “dog”, “cat” and “ball” can be introduced to children at this time. Parents can introduce words with simple rhymes and repetition. Children should be encouraged to sing along with parents as they spell out words. As children learn more and more words through this method, they will subconsciously start to identify patterns in letter arrangement. This knowledge will in turn enable the child to pick up phonics at a later age through structured lessons.
Formal Lessons In Phonics
From the age of 4, parents can sit children down and conduct short formal lessons in phonics. Parents should spend some time teaching children how consonants are combined with vowels, and the sounds that are created by these combinations. Parents can also try giving children lists of short words and encourage them to memorise the spellings of these words.
Transition Into Reading
From the age of 2, parents should start a habit of reading books prior to bedtime. From the age of 4, parents should start encouraging children to try and read the books on their own. Although at this age children will not be able to read on their own, this early encouragement will help children to understand that there is an expectation for them actively participate in the bedtime reading sessions and try to learn words as they are being read to.
Formal Lessons In Reading Sentences
From the age of 5 to 6, children must be encouraged to read short phrases or sentences out loud. Parents should patiently listen to their children as they try to do so and gently correct them if they make mistakes. Parents must encourage children to read two words at a time, then three and four and so on. Children must be told to go back and re-read what they have read if they do not understand. As children come across words that they do not understand, they must be encouraged to guess the meanings based on the context of the passage that they are reading.
As a form of encouragement, parents can read out interesting stories to children but insist on children reading the last few pages themselves – leveraging the natural inclination for children (and adults) to want to know how the story ends!
Progress at each stage of teaching a child to read may seem impossibly slow at first. However, there is good news – the rate of learning usually improves exponentially.
Parents just have to keep up the intensity and effort in encouraging the child to start reading independently.
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