Fostering a love of reading in conjunction with teaching a child to learn to read are perhaps among the most important parenting tasks. Children who can read well from a young age have a head start in school, and children who enjoy reading will learn faster and learn more. You can begin teaching your child to read when your child is a toddler. If you’re looking for resources to help you teach your child to read, here are some of the best:
Foster a Love of Reading
Learning to read begins with enjoying reading and wanting to learn to read, so it’s never too early to start this first step in teaching your child to read. Read to your child daily; take him or her to bookstores and libraries, and let your child see that reading is a fun and gratifying process. Further, if your child lives in a house where he or she is surrounded by books, your child is more likely to pick up one of those books and try reading. Make sure there are plenty of appealing and interesting books available in your child’s bedroom.
Dialogic reading is one of the best evidence-based practices for teaching children to read. Dialogic reading involves engaging in dialogue with children about the material you read to them and, as they get older, encouraging them to talk with you about what they’re reading. This process makes reading fun and interactive, and can help to foster a lifelong love of reading in conjunction with an earlier readiness to learn to read. I’ve written a detailed article about how to engage in dialogic reading with your child here.
Make Reading a Game
Children, especially young children, learn best through play. This means that anything you can do to make reading into an interactive game will make it easier for your child to learn to read. Some things to try include:
-Singing the words of a book together, and then encouraging children to sing the words themselves.
-Playing “What would Elmo do?” or a similar game. Pick your child’s favorite character from a book, and ask your child to think about what that character might do in a particular situation.
-Fill-in-the-blank reading. Children tend to pick favorite books and quickly memorize them. When reading a favorite book, stop at the end of a sentence and encourage your child to fill in the blank with the word that comes next. Point to the word when your child says it.
Writing and reading are inextricably connected, and many children are able to write before they can read well. Encourage your child to write his or her own stories, and help your child spell the difficult words. As your child begins to understand how letters sound, you can ask him or her “What letter do you think comes next?” rather than simply spelling the word. Making the sounds of letters for your child rather than saying the letters can also help him or her begin to know how different letters sound in different words.
Don’t Force It
Forcing your child to learn to read or continuing a reading lesson after your child has gotten bored, is a surefire strategy to make him hate reading, which makes him less likely to learn how to read. You should teach your child to read only when your child is enjoying it and having fun. Do whatever you can to make the experience into a rewarding game instead of a boring lesson! This is why flashcards are often ineffective tools.
Things That Don’t Work
As mentioned above, children tend to learn through play, and they learn best when they are engaged in interaction with another person. Thus, teaching your child to read should be something the two of you are playfully doing together, not some task that is assigned to your child. With that in mind, here are some things that don’t work:
-Gimmicks. There are many products on the market that promise to teach your baby or toddler to read. Since there’s no rise in 6-month-olds who are capable of reading, it’s clear that these products do not work. They often teach a child to memorize a few words, which is very impressive, but can actually undermine a child’s ability to read. Don’t buy into gimmicks that promise miracles. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
-Television. Television can teach your child a few words or letters, but you can teach your child these same things much quicker. Television is a passive, rather than active, form of learning and thus is the least quality and slowest way for your child to learn to read.
-Flashcards. Flashcards can be good for reviewing for a test, but as a general rule, these tools make reading feel like a chore. When something is a chore, people only do it when they have to. So if your child only reads when he is forced to, he is unlikely to read frequently, which is the key for becoming an excellent reader.
Teaching your child to read is a long process that does not happen overnight, but watching your child read his or her first words as his or her face lights up with understanding is truly a priceless moment. Don’t entrust this wonderful moment to television. Instead, get down on the ground with your little one and start having some fun reading together!
Harwood, Robin, Scott A. Miller, and Ross Vasta. Child Psychology: Development in a Changing Society. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.