10 Tips to Develop Early Reading Skills
Parents have a huge impact on how quickly their children learn to read. Here are top ten tips to improve your child's progress in reading.
The English language system is based on "phonemes" or sounds. This means that each letter symbol is linked to a sound or phoneme. Phonemes cannot easily be heard because when we speak the sounds in English, each syllable of a word is combined into one sound. For example, when speaking the word ‘dog’, the ear hears one sound, not three as in ‘d’, ‘o’, ‘g’.Hence it is essential that children are able to recognize ‘phonemes’ or sounds if they are to read successfully.
In addition children need to learn to recognize some whole words by shape. There are words often called ‘camera words’ or ‘sight words, which are impossible to read using phonemes. These are learned by memorising the shape of the word.
Children also need to understand what they are reading. This is the main point of learning to read! This basic comprehension also ensures they make sensible predictions about what a word could be when learning to read.
They need to practice daily. Reading a wide variety of reading materials such as books, signs and labels, comics on a regular basis means they will recall whole words more quickly and develop fluency.
None of these skills are sufficient alone. They must all be learned together to make a successful reader.
10 Tips to Help Your Child Learn to Read
1. Make time for rhymes. The most important thing that parents can do is talk to their child, sing songs and recite poems that rhyme or include alliteration. Since reading is based on experience of spoken language this will give them the necessary understanding of sentence structure. It also helps with understanding words are made up of separate sounds.
2. Spin a tale. Making up stories or reciting traditional stories to your child without the book present is a good way of getting them to understand story structure and develop an enjoyment of stories before they start reading.
3. Set an example. Let your child see you reading your own reading materials such as the paper, books, recipes and labels at the supermarket etc. It is critical that young children observe their parents reading and learn why reading is so important in our daily lives. It is important that children see both male and female role models reading. Otherwise they may believe that this is only something done by women. This is particularly important for boys who may spend a lot of their time around female care givers. Train your helper and your child’s older brothers and sisters to read with your child so they understand that everyone reads.
4. Start reading from the beginning. During the toddler and preschool years it is critical to provide children with many different reading experiences. This begins with babies hearing you read to them and learning to handle soft cloth books. Through this interaction with you they learn the basics such as how to hold a book, which way up it goes, how to turn the pages and that print conveys meaning.
5. Make it fun. Throw away those flash cards and play sound or word games that are playful and fun. A major thing to remember is to make all of the language and literacy interactions in the home positive and enjoyable experiences. Waving flash cards at your five month old baby is meaningless and boring to them. Playing games such as ‘I spy’ and sound bingo is much more fun. There are many sound games you can play some bought and some made at home. Playing picture card bingo helps children match shapes, this is the same skill needed for recognising sounds and whole words. This is a suitable game for very young children. As your child gets older you can play matching games which match the picture to the first sound or sound bingo. Many resources are available on the Internet or in toy shops around HK.
6. Word games. As your child gets older you can play word games. Word bingo, snap and concentration are just a few.
7. The right book. Take your child to the bookshop or library and let them choose books or other reading materials that they like. The key to making children good readers is finding reading material they are interested in. I know of many children, particularly boys for some reason who have hated reading and found it a real struggle until they suddenly found comics or computer magazines. Then they found a purpose to reading and within no time at all where fluent readers.
8. Use the pictures. Let your child experiment with making up stories. At the beginning you will do most of the reading to your child. As they develop better speaking skills you can begin to have discussions with them about what is happening in the pictures. The next stage for them is to ‘pretend’ to read the text and make up a story that fits the pictures. This is not a waste of time but your child demonstrating that they understand that print carries meaning and they understand how stories work. As they begin to recognise sounds and words they will naturally try and read the words using these skills.
9. Surf the net. Play computer games with your child that focus on ‘phonemes’ or whole word recognition. These don’t have to be bought games, there are many available on the Internet for free. Make sure any sound games focus on the sound or ‘phoneme’ not the letter name.
10. Encourage a wide variety of reading activities. Get your child reading for a variety of reasons, make a cake with them and get them to read the instructions or find the answer to a question they have by looking the answer up in a book. You could also read the back of a CD together to find a song they like or choose what they want to eat by reading a menu in a restaurant.
We can help our children begin to develop the necessary skills to read but it is important to remember they will all develop at different rates. There is something called ‘reading readiness’ - this is the time when each child is ready to approach reading in a more formal way by actually trying to read text accurately. Many of the activities above can be done with children of any age and are fun. They will help your child prepare for this stage. However, forcing your child to do formal reading of texts before they are ready can be extremely detrimental to their future reading skills. If a child does not understand because they are not ready, they will find reading a struggle and become disinterested or learn to dread books. The most important thing of all is to make sure your child enjoys reading, so cuddle up somewhere comfortable, share a story and make it fun.