According to the National Center for Education Statistics,“Children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not”.
When children are read to 3 or 4 times per week at home by a family member, they are likely to be able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet by 26%, against a 14% compared to the ones who are read to less frequently.
They are also more likely to write their own name and read.
But only 53% of children ages 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member.
Children love books with photos and drawings.
They love them because they are amazing, full of sparkling colors and fantastic stories. But they don’t usually read until the age of 5-6 (even if in very rare cases they can at 2 or 3).
Nevertheless, there is something that you, as a parent, can do to help your child to start with solid reading foundations, at any age, whether he is ready to read or not.
The following is a list of activities you can do with your little one. Bear in mind that they are not supposed to be implemented in this order, neither the order is based on their importance.
Implement them when he is ready, be careful not to work with all of them and don’t expect the list to be successful in each step.
Conversely expect some “fails”, as he could be not ready yet.
You need to feel your child be ready, don’t anticipate or push him to complete the steps. He will do great, but only once he is ready.
If you will try to let him do something for which he is not ready yet, it could have the opposite effect: it will make him feel inadequate for some kind of tasks, and this is not what we are looking for with the following steps.
But you know what? Let’s start!
- When they learn to read
- 1. Read with (to) your child
- 2. Ask questions about the books
- 3. Be their example
- 4. Create a reading-friendly setting
- 5. Areas of development
- 6. Types of books
- 7. Word Families
- 8. Phonemic
- 9. Phonics
- 10. Understanding
- 11. Sight Words
- 12. Look and say
When they learn to read
Even if in rare cases kids can learn to read at the age of 2 or 3, they usually don’t start before 5 or 6.
Researchers believe that until that age, “most children have not yet formed certain neural connections that allow them to decode printed letters and then mentally combine them to make words”.
1. Read with (to) your child
When You Can Start
You can start to use books as early as he is 6 months old when babies like looking at simple colored books with pictures.
At the age of 1-2, repetitive and rhyming books are most likely to catch his attention and interest.
At the age of 2-3, children can start to enjoy books with some more text and very simple story lines.
Learning to read is something that starts with early childhood. This means that you should start reading your newborn as soon as he arrives home, just a few days after he adapts to the new settings.
You should get him used to books and also create a special connection between the two of you.
The pleasure of reading, or at least of enjoying the routine to have books around, should start at a very early age so that your son will better enjoy reading in future life.
How Much Time To Spend On Reading
The amount of time you can spend reading to your child is up to you and your routines. You don’t have to force too much your toddler and yourself as well: he needs to feel your joy about it!
You should read 3-4 books per day at a very young age. This time makes him used to spend time reading without looking for distractions when he gets older.
Make a routine for your family and close friends to spend at least 20-30 minutes per day reading to your child.
What To Read
The type of book you will read doesn’t matter, what is important is the joy of doing that.
Read books about topics related to his everyday life. Just use your child’s interests. If he likes flowers, find all the flowers books you can. If he asks you a question, open a book to look for the answer (even for very simple questions, and even if you know the answer already).
Teaching your kid to read should be a rewarding experience. Once you notice that he develops an interest in reading on his own, take a trip to the bookstore or to the library and help him finding books about something he is interested in.
How To Read
The key making your toddler ready to read is through indirect instructions. The best way to perform this task it to let him understand that books are something important, useful and fun too.
The fun part is one of the most important.
Introduce your kid to books so that he can get excited about the stories, pictures and drawings they contain.
Pay careful attention holding the book so that your child can easily see the book, point to pictures, objects, drawings that seem to attract his attention.
Your little boy will love the feeling of you reading to him, always read aloud and, if it makes sense, with a funny voice. He will love it!
You need to enjoy it: this will keep him interested in the books you will read during his childhood.
Since children love to hear the same story several times, re – read the same story for few times. When he becomes familiar with the story, encourage him to repeat any of the lines he can remember, at the right time.
Organize a relaxed place at home, where you can read the books without distractions. The relaxed environment will facilitate a connection between the pleasure of attention and the reading.
Expect the attention not to be always in place. Don’t push to listen to you if he doesn’t want. It has not to be a too strict routine if sometimes he doesn’t feel comfortable.
Change the time, the room or the setting if the feedback is not positive. Catch also every moment, always have a book or two in your bag: every time you are queuing, waiting for a friend, spending your spare time to the park, all these moments can be a perfect opportunity to read a book.
But, again, keep it easy, make reading a fun and enjoyable activity.
Encourage your kid to read to you, to his siblings or to the teddy bear. Talk to him about what he is reading, and remember to respect his opinions.
Make reading something to be proud of!
Read in a funny way
|Funny voice||Deep voice for an adult; teeny voice for the mouse.|
|Chorus Read||For readers who can understand and read the text on their own, read the text together.|
|Microphone||Read in a fake microphone (any stick).|
|Record yourself||Use your smartphone to record you reading and make sure that he listens to the recording.|
|Singing||Sing what you read.|
|Phone call read||Have someone (grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, etc) call and read a book over the phone, it should be better if both of them have the same book.|
|Over the Internet||Have someone read over the Internet (Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, Facebook, etc), so they can see each other.|
|Audio book||Listen to an audio book, it’s good for toddlers to hear another adult reading to them.|
|Pet read||Read to a pet, real or imagined.|
|Take turns||You read a line/page, then he reads a line/page.|
Types Of Books
|0-1 year||1 to 3 years||3 to 5 years|
Cloth Books with textures,
Short-Story Board Books.
2. Ask questions about the books
Asking questions to your children while reading, stimulates their interaction with books; it also develops their abilities to understand what they are reading.
Reading to the toddler isn’t just saying words aloud. Reading allows her to decode and comprehend what she is reading, allowing her to learn – and use – the ability to sound out words. If your kid can pronounce the actual words she sees in a book, but she does not comprehend the meaning of them, you have missed the entire point.
Ask them a question such as “Do you see the dog?” (yes/no) while you point at the photo of the cat. When she is still a very young baby, also ask her to name things she sees in the pictures and talk about how the pictures relate to the story.
These questions will help to develop her vocabulary as well as to interact with the book she is reading. When she gets older, ask to point things and objects in the book and make the sound of the animal she sees.
At about 2-3 years of age, ask questions before, during and after reading the book.
Talk about the pictures on the cover of the book and throughout the book, while you read, connect them to what is happening and will happen in the text, so she can predict what the book is about.
3. Be their example
Your children can be attracted to books from the early age, but their interest will drop without a parent model at home.
Even if you are not an avid reader, you have to make an effort to let your child see you reading frequently, at least a few minutes on daily basis.
What can you read? What you want, something like a fashion magazine, a cars catalog, a cookbook or a novel. The purpose is to show yourself in the act of reading, to demonstrate that even adults need to read.
If you have a daughter show her mother to read as a model.
If you have a son show his father to read as a model.
An example is also important for many other activities. As parents we want our kids to be successful, but we forget that children learn by examples.
Your everyday behavior affect your children’s success!
So, take that book now…
Take your time to read aloud to your kid. It helps her to learn that reading is a pleasant experience, something that you too care about.
Books open up a whole new world of fun and adventure.
While you read a book, ask what she thinks it’s going to happen or why a character made a choice, to figure out her deduction of the story: “What do you think is going to happen next?”.
If a character shows a strong emotion, identify that emotion and ask your daughter if she has ever felt like that: this will help you to see if she can connect what she understands of the story to their everyday life.
Talk about colors, shapes, and shadows. Point out the characters, objects, setting, and ideas.
Once the book reading is close to the end, ask if her prediction was right. Also ask her to tell you what the story was about to check the summarize skills: “Who do you like best in this story?”.
Implement these techniques randomly to meet the developmental stage of your daughter, this is a good way to promote and improve how her reading comprehension develops.
4. Create a reading-friendly setting
You can think you can teach your 2-3 years old to learn letter names with flashcards, videos, alphabet books and other tools. But what you should do instead is to take advantages of (and create) teachable moments.
Children are like sponges and they can be able to learn alphabet and words with forced methods. But this is not the best way to teach them to understand the print they see.
Children are curious by nature about what is around, and if they are surrounded by letters and words, colors and shapes with real meanings, they will start asking questions about them.
This is how you should teach them the alphabet: with an enjoyable method.
Your goal is to stimulate their mind to be a good learner for their whole life, not just to memorize letters and symbols without any significance.
To read letters and words, your little boy needs to hear them, say them, see them, and link them to his everyday life. Talking to/with him helps to make sure he can improve his vocabulary.
Help him to connect stories and tales you read to things that happen during his life, and how events are similar.
It’s quite natural for children to relate just about everything to their own little life.
When you read a story about a cat, show him all the cats you see around and start talking about that cats: “How big are they?”, “What color?”, “Who do you think they belong to?”. You have to create a story about cats and tell it.
- If I were a dog, I’d feel exactly the same way.
- I remember when we went to a library on a rainy day.
- I know how Sarah feels about her teddy bear. It was so hard for me to do things without mine, when I was a baby.
5. Areas of development
Learning by doing makes the learning process easier for simple tasks. That’s why the best way for children to learn is when more than one area of development is involved.
As soon as your little one shows you her interest in letters and words, and you have created a natural setting to identify those characters already, it is time to implement activities that involve more senses.
There are many methods to include multiple domains of development in relationship to letters and early reading abilities. Alphabet craft is one of the most recognized. It involves learning the shape of a letter, the sound it makes, and motor skills like cutting, gluing and creating.
There are plenty of this kind of activities which include also motor skills. Take note of what your kid prefers, her strengths and area of interest, and set the right activity.
6. Types of books
When your child can understand the difference between real and make-believe, which usually happens at 5, you can start to let him know about the different types of books you can read together.
The books you can identify:
|Non-fiction: real stories, facts about animals, places, people|
|Fantasy: make-believe, can't happen in real life because of talking animals and things, magic events.|
|Realistic Fiction: made-up stories, it could theoretically happen in real life because the characters and situations are believable.|
To classify a book in one of the above types, your little ones have to think about it and run through the story the book tells with several details.
Once this is done, he can decide which genre assign the book to. The last step is to recall about the other books he knows and make some connections.
We are here trying to suggest a variegated “reading diet”, also comics are fine as long as they are not the only type of books he reads.
Don’t forget that the classifying process can take 5-10 seconds of your time, but it can take up to a few minutes for a young mind.
There is also a unique type of books that can not fit the above categorization.
“Phonics readers” are books which have the goal to let a child to say, to sound out words. This kind of books is usually just filled with pictures. Because of this, use high-quality books to perform this task.
Don’t forget that the purpose of this article is to help your child to learn to comprehend what they are reading. Just sound-out it is not what we are looking for. The goal is model his mind to process the information of the book you just read together so that he will be able to do the same independently.
7. Word Families
Word families are simply words that rhyme. Learning word families can help your children to see patterns while reading. This kind of words allows them to begin to “read” by grouping sets of letters within one single word.
The first part of a word is called onset. The last one rime.
Word families share a similar “rime” when the onset (the first part) changes.
When your kid is able to recognize the word “let”, she can also read all the other words that contain the rime -et, for example: met, pet, wet, and get as only one letter changes. This also helps to recognize the rhyming words.
Try to play this game with your toddler:
Show her how to rhyme by pointing out parts of your body. Say a rhyming word and ask your child to say the body part. This way it helps to rhyme into her mind with a visual reference. For example: touch your nose and say “rose”, she will automatically say “nose”.
- Tell your daugther, “We are going to play a rhyming game. Rhyming words have the same sound endings. I’m going to point to something on my body, and say a word. You’re going to say the body part that rhymes. Okay?”
- Give her two examples: “I’m pointing to my leg, and I say beg. You say leg. I’m pointing to my nose. I say rose, and you say nose.
“Phonemes” are the smallest sounds.
These sounds are composed by:
|Consonants||eg: b, c, d, f|
|Short vowels||eg: a, e, i, o, u|
|Long vowels||eg: long a, long e, long I|
|Digraphs||eg: aw, ew, ow|
Phonemic is about learning these sounds and handle them within a word and a phrase. Find a complete list of Phonemes on Auburn University website.
Digraphs are sounds composed by individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc.
With “Phonics” children learn how to spell Phonemes and some rules of the English language.
Phonics is certainly an important phase of the reading and spelling process but, as already said, your main goal is to help him to understand what she is reading, not just to speak aloud with no clue about what she is saying.
Teaching the rules of phonics is a way to help your little ones to better learn what she is saying and to spell.
This method is one of the best known to teach reading to children. It makes kids learn the alphabet. Your child learns the names of the letters and the sounds they make.
Once your little boy knows the sounds of the letters, he can mix two letters to create simple words, then three letters, then four and so forth.
To apply this method you need books with both pictures and phonically written words to make your son create words/pictures connection.
Each single word needs to be sounded out by the kid to get better results.
Since repeating random meaningless words could be perceived as boring, you need to make it fun by making sure he will learn the meaning of each word.
Introduce one letter a day with different words each day. But don’t be discouraged if your little one needs more than one or two days to master that letter. This is pretty normal.
Using the phonics method, most kids learn to read basic words and sentences within 3 to 6 months circa.
Decoding comes after the previous steps and it is pretty clear. At this stage, your child is aware of the sound of each letter of the alphabet.
She is now ready to create short sentences.
While saying short words, ask her to spell them with the sound of each letter /d/, /o/, /g/ and put them together: “dog”.
Once your daughter can decode more words with regularity, then she can easily recognize the words.
Ask your child to put the sounds together and say the word.
For example, you say m-o-m and she has to say “mom”.
Try also looking around in the room for ideas such as l-am-p or win-d-ow. This will also help the child to connect the word with an object.
You can also choose some words from a book you are reading and say each word split into three parts.
Ask then her to put the words together according to the sounds. Help her to find the words on the page of the book, and her them again together. With this process, you are making a connection between the words and what they look like.
11. Sight Words
Even if these kind of words are the most common used in the written language, they are also difficult to recognize phonetically. In fact, they don’t follow the regular rules.
For this reason, the only way to make your child a skilled reader is to memorize them.
Dolch and Fry List are popular sight words list which can be helpful to let your kid learn these words. The lists contain many words but don’t worry, he doesn’t need to learn all of them here and now: he will learn all of them, but step by step, in his own time.
12. Look and say
With this method, your child can learn to recognize words and sentences with their sounds and meaning.
Your child has to look at a word which you sound and repeat that word.
Flashcards must contain words with pictures on them, this will help your kid to connect the sound with the real meaning of the written word.
Not using a picture on the flashcard, she will probably try to guess what is that about without learning anything.
Together with single words, you can also use cards with short sentences.
Make them yourself, say the sentence and ask then your kid to repeat while pointing at each word. This way you create the connection sentence-picture-sound.
By creating cards with words yourself, you can think up different sentences every time. You can also use the single word cards first to teach single words and then lay the word cards together to make simple sentences.
The main point that we want to highlight here is that there are no secret strategies or shortcuts for teaching children how to read.
You just need to model these tactics to your little one, from the age of few days to her first steps in school. Don’t follow them as a strict checklist, some of them will not fit your child.
Don’t be pushy if she can’t make it: she will, at some stage. It’s something only you can recognize.
Guide your kid, make your little girl or little boy a good reader by following the main general principles.
Don’t expect too many things or be disappointed if something does not work, it’s not probably the right moment (yet).
The above list is something you can implement during his or her early years, every day, in a familiar environment. Use them, but also enjoy with them!
And, of course, make your child be a … child.