The process of reading or decoding letters into communicable words is the very essence of education. Without reading and comprehending words, all other advanced learning is either non-existent or extremely difficult. Therefore, making sure your children learn this skill at a young age should be a top priority for parents. Parents who love to read and are seen by their children enjoying books and other reading materials are already setting a good stage for their children.
As soon as a young child shows interest and can sit still for at least 10 minutes, parents or the person in charge of their care should read aloud to them from picture books. As they age, longer sessions will automatically happen as their interest and ability to focus lengthens. Some very good tips in the reading aloud stages are:
• Read with inflection and different type voices for characters in the story
• Use your finger to point out the words being read; little minds start to recognize words quickly
• Stop periodically and ask questions; if the child is not understanding, go back and try again
• Stress the direction of the words left to right and reading from top to bottom; little children need to learn this early
After being read to for a year or so, children will want and even pretend to be reading the words themselves. Usually they have picked up a word or two by memory, and it will be a good time to introduce flash cards. Preschoolers can handle about 3 flashcards at a time and once they have a good comprehension of those 3, then 2 more can be added. This method is called “chunking” and is very successful. Repetition is important, and testing the meaning of the word in conversation with the child.
Along with flash cards, magnetic letters are fun and a great teaching tool. Simple words, with good clear sounds and lots of repetition once again, will help the child avoid frustration and keep interest. Once a young child has mastered a word with rhyming ability like “cat” then they will enjoy changing the first letter to sound out blending words such as “bat,” “rat,” and “fat” with emphasis on how the beginning letters of B, R and F are sounded out.
Vowel sounds are extremely important to teach before the child tries to read a book themselves. There are 19 vowel sounds in the English language, no simple task to learn at any age. Fortunately little children have the best chance of learning quickly as they have no other language or bad habits to un-learn. Teaching children to recognize the 5 vowel letters is crucial.
With these steps mastered, then reading for fun begins. With the correct book selections and a lot of patience, encouragement and understanding, parents and pre-school teachers can speed the learning along with songs, rhyming games and conversations. Many years ago, first grade was the typical grade to begin reading; today, many children enter kindergarten with reading skills already soundly in place.
Beth Costanzo M Ed has been educating children for over 20 years. She is the former owner of 2 highly successful childcare center located in Gloucester, MA Beth’s love of children and learning prompted her to create The Adventures of Scuba Jack an educational resource for both teachers & parents. http://www.adventuresofscubajack.com