I still remember when my son started reading the alphabet. It was pure pleasure and a moment of pride as a mother. But this didn’t just happen out of the blue. There are a lot of activities and efforts that I did previously that gradually helped my preschooler read.
You shouldn’t wait to start working on reading when your child hits the 3 year mark. It begins way before that. Research suggests that reading does not begin with naming and sounding out letters and words. Rather, reading readiness starts long before a child gets formally introduced to alphabets and words.
As parents, we have the power to transform our home into a learning accelerator. It just requires a few tweaks here and there in the family routines and home settings. Your creativity can make reading fun for your child. The 8 following areas are very effective in encouraging reading readiness in children. The methods outlined below are time tested and research-backed. Let us see what works best when you want to know how to teach your child to read.
1. Ability to differentiate objects
If I say your kitchen and living room are the best resource rooms for reading, would you believe me? Well, it’s true. The following are a few examples of how you can use real life objects to teach reading to your child. Do remember to follow the learning principles of going from:
- easy to difficult,
- known to unknown and,
- concrete to abstract.
a. Object reading
Object concept has always been very important in developmental psychology. Piaget’s famous concept of objects permanence entails that an infant first develops the concept of the physical world around him. He is gradually able to grasp that objects exist even when he cannot see them.
But do you know that object awareness also contributes to reading readiness of your child? The ability to differentiate objects is essential for helping your child to read. Here is how:
- Explain every object the child is using or has contact with.
- Let him recognize and name objects like plate, cup, chair, teddy, soap, ball, etc.
This activity has multi-dimensional benefits. It develops the vocabulary, helps in speech development, improves ability to observe, and develops the ability to “read” objects.
b. Object sorting
Once the child learns the basic categories of objects, such as cups or balls, play a sorting game within a category.
- You can place the cups used by the family members on your kitchen shelf. Help the child in sorting daddy’s cup, mama’s cup, and his own cup.
- Similarly sorting small ball, ball with cartoons on it, and ball with cherries on it, can be another fun activity. You can add as many object reading activities as you like.
c. Object with picture matching
As the child moves ahead, make activities slightly complicated. Once your kid can read 3-dimensional objects. Introduce pictures of objects.
- You can hand over the picture of a plate or refrigerator to your kid and ask him to place it on the corresponding object.
- If your child likes to mover around a lot, you can play this game in the form of treasure hunt. This fun activity teaches your child to read 3-dimensional objects and 2-dimensional photographs.
2. Reading angles and patterns
Very often we buy different form boards, puzzles, and nesting toys for our kids. Similarly, we just know that we are supposed to teach basic shapes to our children.
But why? Mostly, because these activities are recommended by experts or are considered age appropriate for our 2-year-old.
Actually, all the activities involving reading angles and shapes are pre-reading activities. The alphabet is a combination of horizontal, vertical, slanting, and curved lines. This means the better a child understands the shapes and angles, the sooner he will begin to read.
- You can use purchased shape boards and puzzles. And you can also make your DIY shape charts or cut outs.
- Once the child is familiar with the shapes, you can generalize it through activities like identifying triangle or square shapes in the room.
- Make shapes with play dough. Pasting different shapes on drawings of shapes is another interesting activity.
- You can also make a post box at home with a shoe box. Cut shapes on the lid of the box. Give cut out shapes to the child and ask him to put shapes in the post box through matching holes.
Use your creativity to make interesting puzzles and mazes for your kid. Turn this learning material development into an art and craft activity. Get multi-faceted benefits from it:
- Have a fun time with your kid,
- work on his social skills,
- refine his fine motor abilities,
- enhance his cognitive abilities and,
- help your preschooler read.
3. Reading to your children
I still cherish the memories of storytime with our grandfather during winter vacations. My siblings and I used to sit around him. He would tell us stories of ancient times, historic characters, and fairies.
At that time, listening to those stories was simply fun. But as I grew older, I realized how much information he had passed on to us. We learned about ethics, cultures, and values. And I had a fairly rich vocabulary as a first grader.
Do you want to help your child read? Read books to them. An interesting study at Ohio State University revealed that parents who read 5 books to their children daily give their children exposure to 1.4 million more words than those who don’t by the age of 5.
Reading books to your children can be the key to their better vocabulary and reading development.
4. Phonics programs
Phonics is a very well-known system now. It involves reading by sounding out words. Under this program, children learn the sounds of alphabets and words. And by combining the 2, learn to read phrases and sentences.
As a psychologist, I have personal experience that phonics is very effective. Children very easily learn to associate the grapheme (shape of a letter) and phonemes (sound of a letter) through phonics. And with practice, they become independent readers more swiftly.
Some children have slight articulation errors in their early years. If you as parents can put some creativity in your phonics program, it can also help in correcting articulation errors. You just need to include phonetics (placement of articulators when sounding out words) in your learning activities.
For example, if your child cannot speak the “b” sound while practicing “b” in phonics, also show your child how you move your lips when producing “b.”
Similarly, the “n” sound is a nasal sound (it comes from nose). When practicing “n,” place your child’s finger on side of your nose and let him feel the vibrations while saying “n.”
This way phonics not only will help your child learn to read. It will also help in achieving speech clarity.
Research has shown that the phonics method is more effective than other methods. Children learn better through this program and their comprehension is better.
While working on phonics, you can play fun games with your children:
- Saying words starting with “d” sound. e.g., dog, door, drum, etc.
- Making words that end with “an,” e.g., man, ran, can, fan, etc.
- Changing the first sound game, e.g., catch, match, etc.
To make things more interesting, you can draw or paste pictures alongside words. And with the help of your child, make journals of phonics.
5. Locating words in surroundings
Mommy, when you are sitting in your living room or driving around with your kids, just look around and wear the glasses of a reading coach. You will be surprised to notice how many words and reading material is surrounding us at all times.
There are magazines, calendars, signboards, billboards or hoardings, labels on products, ads and subtitles on TV programs, letters and numbers written on utensils, and the list just goes on. You can change all these into learning material.
Create fun reading activities around your daily routine.
- Find the words starting with “C” in a magazine article.
- At an advanced level, circle words in a newspaper to make a sentence.
- Read aloud what is written on the road signs.
- Find the lowest or highest priced candy bag on the shelf.
- While grocery shopping ask children to find specific food items, e.g. , milk powder saying “lactose free” or gluten free cereal.
6. Sight reading
Sight reading involves repeatedly presenting the most frequently used and foundational words. Through whole word approach, the child learns to read those words easily.
An effective way of introducing sight reading is using flashcards. Sight reading is also considered effective for children with special needs and for children at risk of developing reading difficulties.
A sequence of easy to difficult can be followed while using sight reading. For example, most common words like toy, cat, ball, thank you, please, can be written on flashcards.
- Initially you can present each word with the picture of the object or gesture.
- Later your child will start to read the words in the flash cards.
- An extra step for generalization of learned words can be to find the named words in the given book or magazine.
By combining sight reading with phonics, you can design a more effective reading instruction program for your child.
7. Assessing your child’s reading readiness
Here is a gift for you all super moms. Many formal reading readiness tests assess similar abilities. I have tried to combine those abilities into a simple set of skills, which can be used as an informal assessment for understanding the reading readiness level of your 3 years old. It can also be used for preschoolers.
If your child has the following skills, he is reading ready. And if you feel some areas require more attention, then plan your activities accordingly.
- Pattern recognition: Your child can recognize and visually discriminate between different shapes and written patterns.
- Phonics awareness: Your child understands the relation between shapes and sounds of alphabets.
- Sight words: Your child can read familiar words without sounding out the phonics.
- Story comprehension: Your child can explain the meaning of a story being read to him.
In the end, remember one thing, it’s motivation to read that matters the most. Read to your children from a very young age. Make sure your children watch you reading and sharing good books. Present good storybooks to your children.
Develop respect and love for books. If children grow up watching you enjoy reading, they will learn to value reading themselves.