Let’s start this article with a very brief overview of the ideal way to teach children to read in English.
- It always starts with letter recognition, which really should be mastered by the age of 3.
- After a child is able to recognise all the letters of the English alphabet, parents can then start to teach the sounds these letters make when single vowels are added to them, like “Ba, Ca, Ti, Su” etc. These are known as “consonant-vowel” combinations or C-V. As the child’s mastery in the English language grows, the educator or parent can start to teach longer letter combinations, such as “Baa”, which are known as “consonant-vowel-vowel” combinations (C-V-V). Parents can then move on to other variations of consonants and vowels. On KidsEnglishCollegeTM, we have a very convenient free tool to get you started with teaching letter sound associations.
- The final step is to teach sound blending. For example, parents will then have to teach children how to combine “d” and “og” to make “dog”. This piece of the puzzle is often easier to do that most parents or educators imagine – but only if letter recognition (step 1) and letter combination sound associations (step 2) have already been mastered.
- Educators and parents
can andshould use games to make learning sessions enjoyable for their children. However, teaching should not be done exclusively through games alone. In nearly all aspects of learning – there is some mundane or rote work involved and when learning to read, this is no different. So parents really should not shy away from sitting their children down to do some drills and workbook exercises, even if it is just for 5 or 10 minutes a day. The discipline that comes with such practice will also be very helpful in the future.
- The initial pace of learning will be slow. Reading a written language is an abstract idea to young learners. It will take time for young minds to wrap around the concept of translating letters into sounds. The pace of learning will accelerate very quickly once the child understands what reading is all about. The pace of learning will again accelerate when the child has learnt enough words to independently read books and use a dictionary. In fact, once the child has reached this stage – the parent will no longer be needed, except when the child is too lazy to pull out a dictionary! So while the time and effort invested in teaching a child can seem to bear impossibly slow fruit at first – it will pay off handsomely in future if parents just keep at it.
- When teaching a child to read, do not force progress to be linear. This means that educators should not insist on following a lessons plan too closely. A child’s mind is like a sponge especially when the child is interested in something. For example, the parent may be trying to teach a child to read with a book about cars, but the child may be more interested in reading the assembly instructions that came with a new cabinet. Instead of forcing the child to sit down and grind through the book about cars – parents really should use the assembly instructions as a teaching aid instead.
- Schools may have a different pace or teaching method. That’s fine! If you do send your child to a preschool or play school and if that place does have an English class, they may use some teaching method of their own, or have their own curriculum. That does not mean that you have to adopt their methods. Of course, you can choose to spend some time reinforcing the school lessons at home, but you can also spend some time teaching English reading to your child in your own way. A non-linear immersive experience brings maximum learning opportunity for the child.
- Speaking of schools… depending 100% on schools to teach English reading is not recommended. Parents have to do their part at home. Reading is an extremely critical skill that needs to be mastered at a young age. Children will need to be able to read independently in order to tackle all other subjects. If the child enters the formal education system without being able to read and write with at least some basic mastery – the child is going to suffer and lag behind. This is not about being competitive – it is about being able to cope from year 1 of formal education. Lots of parents tend to “let their children develop on their own pace“, which is great – but this is not an excuse to be hands off when it comes to education. Parents have to teach at home, but the pace of teaching will have to be varied depending on the child’s pace of learning.
Teaching children to read can be a grind. But, mastering this skill at a young age is life changing. When a child is able to read independently, the child will be able to gain access to a whole world of knowledge that does not depend on someone being free or interested to sit down and read to him or her. As the child starts to read more and more books, the child’s world view will also expand tremendously and quickly – enabling him or her to engage in a wide variety of conversations with adults and children alike.
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