Teaching your child to read is an important step in their development. Doing this can help them to excel in school and lay the foundation for an enriching, lifelong habit.
1. Start by reading to them
Like anything important you want to teach your kids, you should start early.
+ Spend time reading to your baby or toddler so that they associate the activity with cozy times with their parents.
+ Make it a bedtime routine throughout their childhood.
At this point it’s not necessary to stick strictly to the text.
+ It’s all about the fun tone of your voice and making the connection between pictures and sounds, and how much fun they bring.
+ Find books that bring other senses into play to help your child interact with the story. For example, many children’s books have pages that are tactile, play sounds or have interesting scents.
Make sure books are easily accessible to children, perhaps kept in toy boxes, with the rest of the fun stuff.
2. Let them learn naturally
As your child develops into a preschooler, let them learn naturally and don’t hurry the process.
+ They can discover that a book has a beginning, a middle and an end, and that pages are read left to right and one after another.
As you read to them, they will find that the different letter shapes are what give rise to the sounds of your narrative.
+ They will gradually be able to repeat passages from favourite books from memory.
Look for books with strong, funny illustrations and clear, simple text. Rhymes also help to make the writing memorable.
3. Teach them their ABCs
As your child develops word awareness, start to break down the words into individual letters, sounding them out.
+ You can use the alphabet song or more creative methods to teach them the names of the letters.
+ For example, you could create letters out of modelling clay, or with foam in a bubble bath.
When teaching letters, start with lowercase letters before capitals, since they make up 95 per cent of the words in written English.
4. Teach them sounds phonetically
You should also begin to help your child sound out letters phonetically, so “ah” instead of “ay” for A, “buh” instead of “bee” for B, and so on.
+ Once they know some letter sounds well, you can play “spot the letters” on street signs and food labels, as well as in books.
+ You could also play other letter-sound games together, such as I Spy… (“a fruit that begins with “A” and is round, crunchy and red,” for example).
5. Help them at home with what they learn at school
When your child is in school, you should support what they are learning at home.
+ You may want to find out which phonics method the teacher is using so you can shape your efforts to maintain consistency.
Keep reading to your child, moving from the basic reading primers to more advanced stories that capture their imagination, whether it’s fairytales or princess stories.
+ Reinforce the connection between reading and pleasure, making it an anticipated treat, not a chore.
Other tips for helping your kids advance in their reading skills include:
+ Talking about the plot to check comprehension, and asking your child what they think is going to happen next.
+ Letting them spend time with the pictures, since these provide valuable clues to the meanings of the text.
+ Waiting until your child is in the mood for reading. There’s no use doing this when they are hungry or tired.
+ Keeping reading sessions short — 10 minutes or less.
+ Introducing them to the local public library, letting them choose their own books.
+ Giving them books as birthday and holiday gifts.
If your child learns to love reading, their life story is bound to have a happy ending.