Top Tips for Helping your Child to Read!
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Reading is one of the most important skills a person will ever learn and one of the most exciting milestones! It is almost essential for being able to cope easily with daily life as we grow up and is the key to learning many other things. While it is true that children do not need to be able read before starting school, it can help them enormously if they already have the basics under their belt. In fact, according to a UNICEF report, the learning a child does in their pre-school years has a direct impact on their exam results aged 16 (no pressure then!!). So what can parents and care-givers do to help their little ones with this important skill? Here are our Top Ten Tips!
1. FOSTER A LOVE OF READING. As with any skill, motivation is the key – we all learn better when we’re interested! Share books often (at least every day), choosing ones that you are both interested in so you can be enthusiastic about them yourself and make it come alive (think silly voices, surprise on your face at silly goings-on) - it will be infectious for your little audience! A child is almost never too young to be introduced to books – even small babies can be drawn to the ones with sensory elements such as high contrast pictures and touchable elements. (The Peep Inside range from Usborne Books are gorgeous sensory books for this age.)
2. HELP YOUR CHILD TO RECOGNISE DIFFERENT SOUNDS AROUND THEM. To be able to read, we must first be able to differentiate between sounds. Schools use phonics to teach children reading these days, which is a method based on the sounds that letters (and letter combinations) make. Point out sounds in daily life, e.g. when you’re walking down the street or playing in the park. When we can identify a plane or a dog just from the sound it makes, we’ll be on our way to being able to identify the different sounds that letters of the alphabet make! Then we’ll be able to break words down into their separate sounds (called ‘segmenting’), which is really important when it comes to spelling words. Sound books are good for this too.
3 SONGS AND CHAT! Being familiar with the sounds that make up our language is important for developing speech and also for ‘phonological awareness’. That is to say, the ability to recognise parts of speech such as words, rhyme, alliteration, and syllables – all of which form the foundation of being able to read! So feel free to chatter away to your baby right from day one – having them face you in the pram or sling is great too, so that they can see your lips. Nursery rhymes are great for helping familiarise them with rhyme and alliteration – adding the actions makes them even more fun and can help kinaesthetic learners (those who remember better by doing or feeling things) to recall the words as they get older.
4. PLAY WITH LETTERS. Early exposure to letters is great - but don't think you need to teach them your child all the letter sounds by the age of 1! Just seeing the shapes helps them become familiar with them - matching them to their sounds can come later. For guidance on the sounds the letters make, there are loads of videos on YouTube (or pop along to a local Alphatots session – some of the sounds aren’t as obvious as you might think!). When buying alphabet toys, go for lower case ones if you can – we use those letters much more than capitals when we’re writing.
5. USE YOUR CHILD’S OWN INTERESTS AS A STARTING POINT. Got a little one who’s into cars? Make a cardboard car ramp with different lanes on for different letters plus corresponding letter stickers on the cars. Into water play? Get foam letters to play with in sink or bath - any exposure to letter shapes is great!
6. PLAY 'SPOT THE LETTER’. A great one for when you’re out and about – have a competition to see who can spot some letters in shop windows or car registration plates.
7. ENCOURAGE DIRECTIONAL TRACKING. A bit of a fancy term, it just means following the text along in the correct direction. To learn to read English, we need to understand the order in which we read the letters and the words, i.e. from left to right. When you are reading to your little one, try to track your finger along the words so they get used to the fact that a) the text corresponds to what you're saying and b) we read from left to right.
8. MAKE BOOKS VISIBLE AND APPEALING. Try to stimulate your child’s desire to pick up a book by themselves, not just when you decide it’s story time. Being able to see the front covers rather than just the spine is really useful, so that the pictures are visible. You could put different books in different places each day to make them stand out!
9. HELP YOUR CHILD IDENTIFY WITH BOOKS. This comes back to being interested in reading – it’s just so important! Try to relate things that happen in stories to the child’s own life if it’s relevant (e.g. “Oooh, that sounds like when we went to the park!” or “I’m glad we didn’t meet anybody like that when we went to the shops!”.
10. LET THEM SEE YOU READING BOOKS FOR PLEASURE – yes another one about instilling a love of reading! Children learn by copying us. If they see us only able to relax in front of the TV, that’s what they will likely grow up doing (that’s not to say you need to give up TV completely!). If they see us choosing a book off a shelf and enjoying reading it ourselves, the chances are they’ll see that as something they would like to do too. One day you might even be able to share some of your own favourite books with them (maybe Roald Dahl, Narnia, and later Charles Dickens?!).
So on - have some fun with reading!!