Here’s a fact: Kids won’t start reading until they’re ready. However, there are ways to develop their brain growth and prepare them for reading from the time they are born. Because reading is fundamental to learning other skills, and because reading in itself can bring joy, many parents want to increase the strength of their kids’ reading abilities sooner rather than later. If you want to raise a confident, enthusiastic reader, read on.
Studies have found that the number-one indicator for how well a child will read is how good that kid is at picking out phonemes in language. A phoneme is a sound that makes up a word; a series of phonemes creates a morpheme, which is the smallest unit of language to contain meaning. If someone struggles to differentiate different phonemes, like p and b, they will also struggle to differentiate morphemes and words that rely on those phonemes.
That’s why it’s critical that you learn to enunciate when you are speaking to and around your kids, even when they are infants. By doing this, you will help your child learn to articulate when they speak, which will help them put letters to sounds when they learn to read.
Studies also show that reading aloud to your kids will increase their ability to read better than simply speaking to them. Typically, your speech slows when you are reading, allowing your kid to pick up on sounds and meaning more easily. Additionally, as they get older, babies will be able to see writing, recognize letters and words and match them to your speech.
While it might not seem like they’ll gain anything from the practice, you should begin reading aloud to your kids within days of bringing them home. You should try to read through three or four kids’ books every day. It will feel like overkill, but so much emphasis on reading will help little ones become accustomed to the act of taking time to read, so they’ll accept and enjoy the custom when they are old enough to read for themselves.
When your babies are old enough to start participating in reading time — i.e. when they can see the pictures and words, start turning the pages themselves and even start requesting certain books — you need to begin engaging them with the readings. You should ask questions about what you are reading, to ensure they are paying attention to the story. You might even quiz them afterwards with questions that require them to dive back into the book to find answers.
Engaging your kids with the reading material boosts their reading comprehension, which is key for supporting learning. You can acquire more close reading strategies from Learning A-Z to help guide the engagement process between books and your little ones throughout childhood and even into adolescence.
Identify Letters (and Sounds)
Even when you aren’t reading books, you can practice phonemes and thus boost kids’ literacy. Writing is everywhere you go, and often you can find letters and words to point out when you are out and about. When kids are little, you should start with letters, and you should always accompany the name of the letter with its common sounds.
You might even make it into a game, trying to think of as many words as possible that start with letters you find. As babies get older, they will also be able to identify letters, and they will have fun making the sounds for each letter they spot. This is a good way to make phonics fun and take it outside of books, which can be intimidating for little ones.
Even when kids are old enough to read for themselves, you shouldn’t stop sitting down to read with them. You might lay down to read them to sleep, or you might set aside time before or after school to chew through a chapter or two of a favorite book series. By reading together, you continue to encourage literacy — first by associating attention and affirmation with reading and secondly by helping your kid to learn bigger, more complex words and concepts. In fact, you might push them to read books just above their reading level, so you can help them improve at an accelerated pace.
Reading is an important skill that your children will continue to rely on for the rest of their lives. While that doesn’t mean you should force your kids to read sooner than they are ready (around 5 or 6 years for most little ones) it does mean you should do what you can to encourage strong reading as much as possible.
While these tactics can result in a more capable reader, you should also be careful to “do as you say” and read for pleasure on your own time. Then, your children will have the best role model for reading.