Children learn to walk and talk, jump and run without too much instruction but when it comes to reading the uphill climb to efficiency can sometimes be rather steep. Here are five ideas to help your child with the challenges of learning to read.
1. Make words fun and important. From infancy onward talk with your child about everything, in an adult voice using normal language pausing to explain things in the simplest of terms but using descriptive words and full sentences. Let your child ask questions and get thoughtful answers from you. The first prerequisite to wanting to learn to read is having an easy and familiar relationship with words. Speaking comes easily to most children without formal teaching. Let reading come easily to them in its own time.
2. Don’t rush it. Schools seem to be forcing children to read earlier and earlier. There are some educators who argue that the ideal age to learn to read is around six, maybe even a little later for boys. Wouldn’t it be great to let our children be illiterate just a bit longer? Let’s recognize the pre-literate years as being one of the special stages of childhood. Think how lucky little kids are to see billboards above the streets or a newspaper on the table and not know (or care) what all those squiggly lines and stick figures mean. Not having to decipher the meaning, their little minds aren’t bogged down with all the printed words grown-ups have to deal with every day. Pre-readers get to let life in without the ad words screaming at them. For as long as you can, let them have those few years of freedom from the written word.
3. Reading is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of education so, of course, we want our children to read. With that in mind, read to your baby, your toddler, to your child and maybe even teenager. Yes! Read out loud to them from the time they can sit on your lap and look at picture books until they settle beside you while you read aloud really, really good, compelling stories. Read to them until they snatch the book out of your hand and go it alone.
4. If your child is having difficulties ask for additional help. Maybe there can be extra time going over phonics or extra reading practice with a kind and caring adult. Ask your child’s teacher if there is more that can be done.
5. Try not to make it worse by embarrassing or frustrating your child. They are already feeling all of that on their own. Keep things positive. Assure them that they will some day get it; that they will some day read. And let them know that you are there for them; that you will run interference with their teacher if necessary. And will stay steady by their side, never doubting that they too will one day read on their own.