As a kid who began reading at the age of three, starting my own children on the path to early reading was one of my objectives as a stay-at-home mom. While there are all sorts of arguments both for and against early reading, it has been my experience that teaching a child early reading skills at home can give him or her a leg up when starting elementary school.
Teaching a child how to read at home doesn’t require expensive electronic reading aides or special workbooks. What it does require is some common sense. Here are the techniques I used for my own kids, which may work for you as well.
1. Start reading to your child at a very young age. I started reading to all my kids while they were still infants. By reading to them at this young age, my children learned that books were for telling stories, even if the story was as simple as A for “apple” and B for “ball.” As they got older, we worked our way up to picture books with a simple text at the bottom of each page. This helped reinforced the idea that the symbols at the bottom of the page conveyed a story.
2. Use flash cards and make up reading games where possible. By the time my children were about 2 1/2, we added flash cards and incorporated some fun reading games to our daily routine. Some ideas of reading games included
* Simple wooden pieces that formed a picture & word when assembled
* Reading store signs and street signs
* Labeling items in the house with post-it notes
* Learning the alphabet song and other spelling songs
3. Invest in some easy to read books. Children need books they can hold in their hands, and don’t have to be returned to the library after two weeks. While there are a number of great beginning reader books available, all my children especially enjoyed reading the Random House line of I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books for beginning readers. Particular favorites were “Hop on Pop” and “Ten Apples up on Top” by Dr. Seuss and “Are You My Mother” and “Go Dog Go” by P.D. Eastman.
What I found interesting about reading these particular books to my children is that over time they actually memorized the story and pretended to “read” along with me. From here it was just a small step to teach my children that a certain grouping of letters means a particular word.
4. Repeat as often as needed. Teaching your child how to read doesn’t stop with dropping a few Dr. Seuss books in their lap and calling it good. Steps 1-3 as listed above should be ramped up to the appropriate age level and continued on through second grade and beyond. How we fostered a love of reading in all our children included these additional tips:
* Continuing to read age appropriate bedtime stories until they were about 7 years old
* Purchasing board games and computer games that involve reading skills
* Subscribing to a book club, monthly magazine or some other monthly publication or puzzle book
* Getting a library card and participating in reading contests
* Purchasing (or renting) episodes of PBS shows that focused on reading such as Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, Ghost Writer and others.
Carving out reading time in the evening for the whole family, including Mom and Dad.
Teaching a child to read is really no big secret. Reading to them every day and incorporating tiny reading lessons when possible will get them started in the right direction. Making reading fun will ensure that they’ll stay interested.