All good parents want their child to succeed in life. An important skill in the success of a child is the ability to read. Literacy is practically essential to obtaining a good job and enjoying a successful career. It is also necessary for most mundane activities like driving a car or surfing the internet.
Children who learn to read well early in life have a well documented advantage over those who don’t. Both public and private schools will start teaching children to read in either kindergarten or first grade. But, no matter how good an education is provided by the school, children learn better if that education is supplemented by teaching at home.
One of the best ways to supplement the teaching of literacy to a child is through the use of flash cards. Flash cards combine reading with a visual depiction of an object that creates better mental pathways in the child learning. Even if you have never heard of flash cards before, the simple design of this teaching tool is such that anyone parent can easily use them to teach a child to read better.
First, to clarify, a flash card is a card that has a picture of an object or scene on one side and the name of that object or scene written in crisp bold letters on the other side. Flash cards are designed for early learning, so normally all capital letters are used, rather than differentiating between capital and lower case letters. Flash cards can be purchased from various teaching resource distributors or can be easily made with household items.
In fact, the best way to use flash cards is to make them with your child. Start off by sitting down with your child and flipping through an old magazine. You are looking for colorful pictures that interest your child. If your child isn’t interested by the picture, the flash card will not be as effective as it could be. You will likely find that many of your best pictures will come from advertisements. Also, if you have a color printer, you can search online pictures as well, though always be careful about what images you look at on the web.
Every time you find an image that interests your child, ask your child to tell you what the image is of. For example, if you find an image of a Corvette, ask you child to tell you what the image is. Your child may respond with “Corvette”, “car”, “sports car” or something similar. The exact response is important, because this is what you will write on the flash card. At that point, cut the image out of the magazine or print it if using the internet. Now, all you need to do to create the flash card is tape or paste the image to one side of a piece of construction paper and write the word or words on the other side.
Do this about 10-20 times with your child and you will have a full set of flash cards. These flash cards will be even more effective than store bought cards because your child has already created the mental connections with the words. Once you have created the flash cards, you need to start using them.
The best way to use flash cards is to use them every day at a regular time. You and your child will perform a daily exercise in order to imprint the words into your child’s mind. The repetition of performing the exercise at the same time each day will help your child learn. The best time to perform the exercise is shortly before your child goes to bed, but not before your child gets too tired to concentrate. By performing the exercise before going to sleep, your child will process the information while sleeping. The worst time to perform the exercise is right after school when your child, having just left school, will want to focus on anything other than learning.
To use the flash cards, first you need to teach your child what the words mean. To do this, show your child the picture side of the card and read the word or words aloud while you do this. Then flip the card over and read the word aloud with your child. Sound out each phoneme with the child. In fact, it is often good to write the word semi-phonetically under the normally written word in order to help your child learn about syllables.
Depending on how quickly your child learns, you will probably need to perform the exercise this way for about one to two weeks, though every child learns at a different speed. After you feel that your child is ready, change the exercise. Instead of showing your child the picture first, show your child the word and ask them to read it out loud. If they succeed, flip the card to the other side, so they can see that they succeeded. If they fail, read the word with them, sounding it out. Then flip the card over to confirm what you read with the picture.
Eventually, your child will be able to read every word without difficulty. At that point, create a whole new set of flash cards. Try to make the words more complicated or possibly add phrases when you do this. For example, the next iteration of flash cards may include “a dog on a beach”. Repeat the exercise above with the new flash cards and mix the old flash cards in as well in order to cement the old lessons with the new. As your child progresses, you can introduce lower case letters and even punctuation. Eventually, your child will be able to read 100 flash cards in the time it used to take to read 20. Once you reach this point, you have probably reached the limit of the usefulness of flash cards for teaching a child to read.