It is not necessary that your child start school knowing how to read. That’s the teacher’s job. When it comes to the beginning of their school career, children transition much more smoothly having developed social skills such as sharing, turn taking and manners in general; as well as practical skills like good toileting habits and hygiene, as well as the ability to open food packages, for example.
However, helping to set up your child for reading success will certainly go a long way in developing their academic confidence and fostering a lifelong love of learning. As a qualified primary school teacher and a mum of a preschooler with a highly developed reading ability for his age, here are my top 10 tips for helping your child learn how to read.
1. Read to your child. EVERYDAY.
Reading to your child everyday has so many benefits. A book is the gateway key to another world, culture or experience beyond their imagination. It helps your child to develop an inquiring nature and a thirst for knowledge. Reading helps to promote essential language skills, whilst developing concentration and a greater attention span. It also strengthens the bond between parent and child through the shared experience and time spent together. The list goes on…
2. Surround them with books.
Make sure books are available for your child to look through and enjoy. Build up an at-home collection of quality books that children can immerse themselves in whenever they choose. Give younger toddlers/babies early access to soft cloth books (click here for a great range) and board books that are safe and aren’t easily damaged.
I usually purchase my books online through Fishpond, who have a huge range of books available and offer free Australia-wide delivery.
3. Visit your local library.
Local libraries will usually have rhymetime and/or storytime programs for babies and toddlers, which involve singing songs and rhymes, reading simple stories and puppet play. Some programs for the older children also finish with a craft activity. While you’re at the library, make sure to let your child borrow a handful of books of their own choosing, for at-home enjoyment.
4. Organise a bookswap.
Books can add up in cost, so share the love by getting together with other parents and regularly swap books amongst yourselves. This way your child can access a greater collection than they would otherwise.
5. Expose children to a variety of texts.
When reading to your child, don’t just stick to regular fictional storybooks. Read all varieties of text types; everything from traditional fairytales to recipes, toy catalogues and even food packaging. Also make sure to provide high quality picture books as well as simple readers which they might start to begin to manage on their own.
6. Help children to understand 'concepts of print'.
‘Concepts of print’ refers to how print is organised and its function. This includes basic knowledge of how to hold a book the correct way up, as well as how turn pages. It also involves an understanding that text is conventionally read from left to right and top to bottom, as well as being able to identify the difference between words, sentences and pictures. At a deeper level, it also refers to the notion that the purpose of these elements is to convey a message.
7. Point out words all around.
Reading is all about making meaning and context is super important. When you are out and about, take advantage of teaching opportunities that allow you to lay reading foundations. For example, point out things such as road signs and discuss the words that are used, what they mean and why it is important.
8. Don't just teach the alphabet.
The alphabet itself will only get your child so far… Yes, it is absolutely paramount that your child comes to know the alphabet. However, the alphabet only teaches the letter names and not the sound the letter represents, which is much more helpful when it comes to beginning reading. So when learning the alphabet also give attention to its sound. For example, “The letter is e and the sound is eh”.
9. 'Read' the pictures.
Ignore the words… tell the story by using only the pictures. A lot of meaning is conveyed through pictures and when reading stories to young children, pictures can sometimes miss out on getting the attention they deserve. This ‘picture reading’ skill is one that can easily be imitated by children, which helps to develop their storytelling confidence. When we as adults read novels and other text without pictures, we have the ability to visualise what we are reading and form our own images of what we believe characters to look like and how descriptions appear to be. However, this is a learnt skill. In order for children to develop this skill, they need to be immersed in pictures as a foundation to then be able to create their own visualisations.
10. Read with Expression.
No one wants to be read to by a boring, monotonous robot… unless of course your ulterior motive is to get your child to sleep, quick smart! Draw them in, engage them, spark their imagination. Expression brings the characters and storylines to life and models smooth, fluent and proficient reading skills that we want children themselves to develop.
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