Getting your child reading from an early age is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to make learning to read fun and easy for your child. Firstly, develop a love of books by regularly reading fun and interesting stories. The greater the enjoyment your child has when being read to, the more interested they will be in learning to read.
Once your child is enthusiastic about books, this will make the next step easier – teaching them the principles of reading. Here are activities you can use to build these early child reading skills.
Start reading books to your child as early as possible. The earlier you read to your child, the earlier an enjoyment of storytime develops, and as a result, the development of early reading skills.
When selecting books for your library at home, think carefully about the books you purchase. The most enjoyable books for reading to children have repetitive rhymes, bright illustrations and good rhythm. Books lacking in these crucial aspects can make for ineffective child reading experiences.
Books with rhyme and rhythm are easy for children to enjoy and learn. Coupled with great illustrations, these books will quickly become one of your child’s favourite pastimes.
There are many great childrens books. If you need some inspiration we’ve provided a recommended child reading list for preschoolers.
Think about the different books you read to your child. Your child will have some books they will favour. However, make sure you regularly include unfamiliar and new books in your reading sessions to help expand your child’s vocabulary and understanding of language.
Child reading can be much more enjoyable when you include a variety of book types. Assorted styles and designs provide different experiences for your child. Pop up books, books with lift flaps, textured books, books with beautiful illustrations, books with wonderful rhyme, books with rhythm or nursery rhyme books all provide a unique child reading experience.
Try to include as much variety as possible when reading to children by developing a good library of books and supplementing it with books from your local library.
Create a ritual around reading time. Try to read books at the same place at the same time of day. For example, before bedtime or after a bath are good times to wind-down at the end of the day.
Make reading sessions fun and enjoyable for your child. The more fun you have reading together the more your child will want books read to them. Then as your reading repertoire expands, your child will have better opportunity to develop their language skills.
Access to Books
Leave lots of suitable books around your house where your child can easily find them and read by themselves. ie board books or similar that your child can’t rip easily. You are encouraging your child’s desire to read by demonstrating a level of trust (that the child is capable of ‘reading’ a book themselves).
In fact your child will probably pretend to read books well before they are able to actually read. This is a great sign of reading readiness.
Use the materials around your home to teach your child the practical application of reading. Reading everything from party invitations, recipes, letters and other material around the house is a wonderful way to highlight to get your child reading.
Introduce your newborn or toddler to the alphabet through the ABC song. The ABC song is great for parents because it is so easy to sing. It has a catchy tune and the memorability of the lyrics makes it easy for your child to join in when they are ready. For more musical inspiration see our list of recommended alphabet songs or youtube alphabet videos.
Alphabet Picture Books
Use specially designed alphabet picture books with your child.
Point to each letter on the page as you read. Then talk about the pictures on the page. For example: oh look theres an apple! Apple starts with A.
This method is particularly useful if your child already enjoys reading books.
There is a rich source of words and spelling opportunities all around you. Use your time with your child at home, in the shops or in the car, to recite words and spell out individual letters. I like to point to a word as I read it and recite each letter I touch. Then I repeat the word one final time.
You can use flash cards to help your child learn and memorise the alphabet. Speed is the key to using flash cards. This is because at a very young age the right hemisphere of your childs brain is set to absorb an incredible amount of information unconsciously and effortlessly.
Start off using flashcards to teach your child to recite the alphabet. Once your child recognises letters you can then start to use the flash cards to teach your child sight words.
When reading to your child, play games to build your childs alphabet knowledge. For example look for how many times a certain letter appears on page. This way your child builds their ability to spot letters within text but also helps them see how letters are used to form words.
Tip: When first teaching your child the alphabet it is best to make things consistent and simple by using the names for each letter and not the phonetic pronunciations. As there are so many different sounds that are associated with each letter it is best to save that for later when your child is sounding out words.
3. Sight Words
The easiest way to help your child develop a sight word vocabulary is to intentionally point to each word in a book when reading to your child.
Books with short, repetitive text are particularly good choices for pre-readers.
It is easier for children to memorize the sight of words that are repeated numerous times throughout the book.
Once your child has begun creating a sight word vocabulary, even if it only contains one or two words, incorporate these skills into your daily reading activities.
First, have him point to each word as you read a familiar story. As you read aloud, stop at a word you believe he may have in his sight word vocabulary and encourage him to read it.
Once your child starts remembering sight words through the books you read, you can start teaching from a sight word list. See our article on Reading Fluency with Dolch Words for more information.
Outlined below are the first level of sight words to be taught to children.
Pre-primer Dolch Words
a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you
Play games to help develop your child’s understanding of phonics. Have your child think of words that start with a particular sound, or go on a treasure hunt around the house for items that start with a particular sound.
Play I spy with my little eye something beginning with B
Tip: Help your child as much as necessary when it comes to phonics exercises. Struggling to make sense of something isn’t much fun. Assist your child in a timely manner so that they don’t get frustrated and give up on an exercise. Ensure activities are fun and are at a good pace.
Child reading activities are fun and are an excellent way to develop early literacy skills for your preschooler. Use the natural opportunities in your day to day life to get your child reading.