Teaching a child to read is a fulfilling and educational process, both for the parent and child. Whether you home school your kids or just want to give your child a head-start, you can begin teaching your child to read at home. With the right tools and tactics, your child will be reading in no time.
High school teacher Sara Shepard explains her unique method for teaching even the youngest of children to read.
1. Read to your child on a regular basis.
As with all things, it’s difficult to learn anything without exposure to it. In order to get your child interested in reading, you should be reading to them on a regular basis. If you’re able, this should start when they are an infant and continue through their school years. Read books with stories they comprehend; at a young age this may lead you to read 3-4 small books a day.
- Books that combine other senses besides listening help your small child to comprehend the story as you read it. For example, read many books that have pictures, tactile pages, sounds, or have accompanying scents.
- Try reading them books that might slightly challenge their comprehension level but that have an interesting or engaging story.
2. Ask interactive questions
Even before your child learns to read, they can learn reading comprehension. As you read stories to them aloud, ask them questions about the characters or the plot. For a toddler, these may be questions like “Do you see the dog? What is the dog’s name?”. The questions can escalate in difficulty as the reading level does.
- Help to teach your child critical thinking skills by asking open-ended questions about stories. You might not hear complex verbal responses until your child is four or five years old, but ask away and be patient.
3. Make books easily accessible
It’s no good if you have books around, but located in places that your child can’t easily take them. Keep books low to the ground and in typical play-areas so that your child begins to associate them with play activities.
- Because your child may be touching and reading the books often, be sure to choose ones that have wipeable pages and that aren’t incredibly sentimental. Pop-up books may not be the best option for young children.
- A fancy bookshelf may seem like the most attractive option, but until your child is in school focus on the utilitarian purposes of book storage.
- Set up a reading space next to the bookshelf. Set some beanbags, pillows, and comfy chairs around to sit in while reading. The top of the bookshelf can hold cups and snacks for having while reading.
4. Set a good example
Show your child that reading is interesting and worthwhile by reading for yourself. Spend a minimum of ten minutes a day reading when your child is around, so that they see you enjoying the activity on your own. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something to read – a magazine, the newspaper, or a cookbook all count. Soon they’ll become interested in reading on their own, simply as a result of seeing you doing it too.
- Include your child in your reading time. If you’re reading something child-friendly, tell them about what you’re reading. Accompany this by pointing to words on the page to help them connect the lines on the page with the sounds that form words.
5. Get access to a library
This can be done in two ways: create your own mini-library at home by collecting dozens of books in your child’s reading level, or make weekly trips to the local public library together to check out books. Having a variety of books on hand (especially with an older child) will add interest for reading, and help to incorporate more vocabulary into their knowledge base.
- That being said, don’t turn down a request to re-read a favorite book just because it’s already been read a dozen times
6. Start to make word-sound associations
Before you even start getting into the alphabet and sound specifics, help your child recognize that the lines on the page are directly correlated to the words you are speaking. As you read aloud to them, point to each word on the page at the same time you say it. This will help your child grasp the pattern of words/lines on the page relating to the words you speak in terms of length and sound.