For most adults, reading is second nature—something we do while barely thinking about it. For young children, reading is not so simple. As a parent, your job is to provide guidance and support to help smooth the way to fluent reading. As your child approaches preschool, his teachers will most likely use a combination of these three basic methods to foster beginning reading skills.
- The auditory approach involves reading books aloud to your little one. This strategy can start even before your baby is born; as early as seven months in utero, a fetus can hear what is going on outside the womb.
- With the phonetic approach, you can help your child break apart new words into individual syllables to show how those parts combine to form words. When using phonics to teach toddlers to read, you’ll slowly introduce certain rules of pronunciation and speech sounds. Be sure to check out Hooked on Phonics.
- The whole language method focuses on entire words and how they fit into sentences. This technique is most effective for preschoolers who have already mastered the alphabet and letter sounds. With less emphasis on grammatical rules and repetition of sounds, whole language learning helps your child learn to read by identifying connections between the words on the page and aspects of your little one’s life.
When it comes to helping your child read, there’s no right or wrong way. The whole language approach can benefit children who learn by visual cues, while auditory children will benefit more from the phonetic style of teaching toddlers to read.
Regardless of which technique you prefer for introducing your child to the world of reading, combining the three basic methods of instruction will help to ensure a solid head start toward understanding grammar, spelling, and sentence structure.
Below are some specific things you can do to help your child learn to love reading
- Simply stated: Read! If your toddler notices you enjoying the written word, he’ll be more likely to embrace it himself. Let your little one see you engrossed in books, magazines, newspapers, and other reading materials.
- Make it an all-day affair. Too often, parents relegate reading to just a short session right before bed. Try reading to your child at various times throughout the day, so it will seem less like a chore and more like a fun treat. Whenever possible, substitute a television show, DVD, or electronic toy with Go, Dog. Go! or Hop on Pop.
- Hit the floor. For babies and young toddlers who don’t want to sit still, lap reading can be a struggle. Get down on the floor with your crawler and a book, and read as your little one explores the room. Before long, you’ll likely find your audience circling back around to you and taking a peek at the pages.
- Make reading engaging and interactive. As you progress through the story, point out interesting pictures, ask questions, and encourage your child to chime in as you recite familiar verses and phrases.
- Read during feedings. While spoon-feeding your baby in his highchair, have a book on hand for quick snippets between bites. This can have an added benefit of keeping your little one occupied and leading him to associate meals with fun and learning.
- Help associate printed words with the story. One of the most effective ways to help your child read is to run your finger beneath the words on the page to help your youngster understand that the letters combine to represent words and sentences.
- Make up quizzes. When reading to children of preschool age, ask questions about what you read. This will help encourage your little one to pay attention during reading sessions and improve his critical thinking skills.
- Make a book together. Looking for more creative ideas for teaching your older child how to read? Use small poster boards to create a customized book where the characters, plotline, and pictures are all derived from your little one’s imagination. Encourage him to read the book to family and friends.
By implementing these easy strategies for early literacy, you’ll be well on your way to helping your child achieve academic success and fulfillment.