By the time your child is three to five years old, you have probably taught them, or are beginning to teach them, the letters of the alphabet, how to sing their ABC’s, and to recognize the letters of their names. You’re doing good, and you feel your child is as “Reading Ready” as he can be when he starts school. Because somewhere in this age range, children do start entering school, and their formal reading education will begin. However, this does not mean that it is all up to the teacher now.
If you want your child to fully grasp, and eventually master the skills needed to read, then you must be actively involved in the process as well. Here are five ways you can be involved and supportive of your child’s reading education.
1. Expose your child to reading in the world around them.
Reading is literally everywhere around us, so there is no need to set aside hours from your busy schedule to go over flash cards with your child. Just open his eyes to all the letters and words around him. While driving you can point our letters and words on signs you pass. “S-T-O-P spells STOP,” and “Look, Billy, Burger King starts with the letter B just like your name.” Simple things like that can help your child recognize and learn letters as well as whole words, and remembering what words look like is an important first step in learning to read.
2. Expose your child to reading at home.
Books are the obvious choice for this, but think outside the box as well here. Order your child a subscription to a children’s magazine; kids love getting mail, and it will give them something new to read every month. Have your child help you write the grocery list or a letter to a friend. When coloring at home, you can point out the words of the colors on the sides of the crayons or markers. And if you really want to go for the gold, you can make labels for everything in your house so your child can easily see that he is sitting in his CHAIR at the TABLE.
3. Use educational television shows, videos, or computer games to support what your child is learning.
These can help your child learn to read as well as be fun for him, but you need to be involved too. If your child is watching Sesame Street or Super Why, sit with him and talk about what the program is trying to teach. Just make sure to limit the screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day, and that the programs are educational and non-violent.
4. Read aloud with your child.
This is one of the best ways you can help your child learn to read. When reading aloud to your child, remember to run your finger under the words you are reading so your child can begin to understand the direction of text. Also, make sure to talk about the pictures and how they relate to the story. If your child asks questions, stop reading and answer them, as it may lead to a better understanding of what is happening in the story. And for goodness sake, use silly voices for the characters because the more fun you have reading, the more fun your child will have. Even after your child learns to read, keep reading to him. Children can listen to and understand more difficult stories than they can read.
5. Listen to your child read aloud.
This can build up your child’s confidence in his ability and help make reading more enjoyable. If your child asks for your help with a word, give it to him right away so that the meaning of the story is not lost. Don’t force him to sound it out, but also don’t stop him from sounding a word out if he’s doing it on his own. Also, make sure that you are not over correcting your child’s reading.
If he makes an equal substitution for words within a story, then let it slide. For example, if your child says “dog” when the word was “pup,” it’s fine; your child still understands the context of the story. However, if a word that doesn’t make sense is used, such as “road” for “read,” then just ask your child to read the sentence again because you didn’t understand what was read. Keep an eye on your child’s frustration levels when he is reading. Pushing a child beyond his limits when trying to read can make it difficult and ultimately less fun.
These are just five ways to be involved in your child’s reading education, but they are five good ways. Just remember that it doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you are there to do it. But however you are involved, keep in mind that the most important thing you can do is give your child tons of praise. Encouraging comments and support from a parent is infinitely valuable to a child and his confidence. And when your child is confident, he will enjoy reading and learning even more.