When your child is ready to read, there’s a number of techniques you can use to foster that potential. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the most popular ones to help you get started.
There is no right or wrong way to approach reading, but some methods (including those below) have been consistently found to work well.
Early reading skills prepare your child well for school, so any encouragement and support you provide to your small children will improve their life chances and stand them in good stead for their later education.
- Word And Picture Flashcards
Flashcards work well with children for a number of reasons. The key one is simplicity. A single word on a card, possibly with an illustration, leaves little room for confusion, and creates an imagine like a photo in your child’s mind’s eye. Fundamentally, you’re laying the foundations for them to build on, even though in years to come they’ll completely forget the flash cards ever existed.
Of course, you can make your own flash cards if you’re a creative type, but they’re incredibly affordable to buy, and you can then put your time into the learning process rather than spending hours creating them before you even get started.
If you do want to turn the creation of flash cards into a fun activity, you can always buy word flash cards and draw pictures on them as illustrations to capture your child’s imagination.
- Make Reading A Fun Event With Mom & Dad
A lot of parents wonder whether an app on their phone, or an electronic device can be used to get their child reading, but the truth is that little beats a good old book. While all these gadgets and gizmos that read to or with your child might be helpful additions, they’re no substitute for putting the time in yourself.
Children really enjoy the praise they get from their parents, who are the real superheros in their lives, and while they might love time on an iPad, phone or educational toy, electronic praise just doesn’t connect in the same way.
What’s more, the feedback loop that’s naturally ingrained into human interaction is lacking even in advanced apps on smartphones and devices. They’ll never be able to detect the nuances of pronunciation or pick up on slight struggles or misconceptions your child develops as they learn. Being able to help them through sticking points seamlessly and early can prevent them from getting too used to doing things the ‘wrong’ way and building on false assumptions.
A final point is young children respond well to familiarity and repetition. When they’re at school, children spend hours perfecting handwriting by repeatedly practicing the same letters over and over again. As adults we’d be bored to tears, but children are driven by a desire to get it just right. The same goes with reading. The same stories over and over allow your child to understand the point in a story over time. It’s a critical part of their development, and goes far deeper than the words on the page, or even the story itself.
Making sure that story time is fun and happens frequently on a regular schedule means they look forward to the routine they love.
- Forge An Early Connection Between Reading And Writing
It’s no secret that reading comes first and writing follows later, after all, how can you write a word before you know what a word is?
What is often misunderstood, though, is how soon a child is capable of starting to write. It doesn’t need to be sentences, just starting to use a pencil to write a letter is a huge milestone. Perhaps when they start to spot the logo at the store is made up of letters forming the words (in this case the word being the store name), or see a letter somewhere else in their daily activites, just asking them if they can write it on a piece of paper is a logical starting point.
The connection between reading and writing is very natural in occurring, but you need to provide the opportunity by supplying the pen/pencil and paper to try it for themselves. It’s incredible that we have a depth of language to so comprehensibly express ourselves, yet so simple that it’s all made up of 26 letter as building blocks, plus a few symbols for punctuation. Once your child learns to read and write their A,B,C, they’ve got the told they need to take the building blocks as far as they wish.
The most common word to start tends to be their own name, but some names are devilishly difficult to spell, even for adults. The Mike’s, Greg’s and Jane’s of this world have it relatively easy in learning to mark their identity on paper, so spare a thought for the Siobhan’s and Niamh’s of this world who have spellings that look nothing like the pronunciation, especially for a child learning to read.
Again, repetition is key – if they don’t ‘get’ writing relates to reading straight away, don’t push it, just try again later, and repeat until it clicks. It will click eventually!
We’ve said before relating to reading that children will become familiar with a story book and tell it themselves as they read but use their own worlds that are broadly along the same lines as the plot. That’s a great indicator that they understand reading. The same applies to writing too – some children will create their own version of writing (although it’s a little less common than with reading) so encourage them rather than worry that they’re confused and don’t realise they’re not doing it ‘correctly’. It’s just a sign that they’re beginning to recognize that words can be written down.
- Phonics, Phonics, Phonics
Phonics is fundamentally a learn simple concept – learning that letters make sounds and those sounds combine to make words. To adults it can seem blindingly obvious – we do it naturally when we see an unfamiliar word to figure out how it should be pronounced. For children though, it’s rarely obvious. That’s why the learning of A,B,C’s has been taught for generations, it’s just that now it’s more formally recognized and termed phonics.
Just as a builder can build a house with bricks, a child can build (and then read) words with phonics.
- Patience, Consistence And Enthusiasm
We’re starting to sound a little like a broken record, but fun and routine based learning can carry you a long way in teaching children. That doesn’t just apply to reading, the same goes for writing, math and wider life skills like socializing. Sticking with the reading topic for now though, repetition is key to really making the important message and learning stick in your child’s mind.
With anything that needs to be done over and over, making it fun makes the task less daunting, and will reduce the chance that your child’s attention wanders to other things. Similarly, having solid routine helps your child to learn that when they’re in learning mode, the TV is switched off, the toys are away, and everyone involved is focused on the task at hand.
Ideally, that means parents phones aren’t there to interrupt reading time, and everyone is clearly enjoying story time. Yes, that means mom and dad get to practice their acting skills too as they read the same book for the hundredth time!
In summary, whatever help you give preschool children is going to help them dramatically when the time comes to start school, so there’s no need to beat yourself up if you could have done more. In a similar vein, avoid pushing your child if they’re struggling with something. It’s almost always true that encouragement is good, but pushy parenting is anything but advisable.
Keeping learning fun means your child will look forward to it. That’s true regardless of what you’re working on, and by following the simple ideas above, you can gradually introduce books to your child’s life as you embark on a reading journey together.