Teaching Reading: Part One

One of the biggest milestones in our children's education is when they learn how to read. You've probably asked yourself, "When is the best time to teach my child to read?" You can research this until you are blue in the face, but the answer is really very simple. You've already started, because from the moment your child is born, you are teaching him. We talk to our babies. We read to them. We sing to them. We recite silly little verses while we change their diapers or put them in their car seat. We hug and cuddle our children. We play with them. We laugh with them. We read to them.

The key to becoming a good reader is an early and varied exposure to language. What does this mean? Basically, the more you can expose your child to language, the better. How can you do this?

Read aloud to your child every day. Probably the most important daily activity parents can do with their children is to read aloud. Reading to children increases their knowledge of the world, their vocabulary, their familiarity with written language ('book language'), and their interest in reading. From being read to repeatedly, children learn that reading is enjoyable, that pictures provide clues to the story, that books and print go from left to right, that print represents words and meaning, that stories have a beginning and an end. By listening, watching, and asking questions, they add to their vocabulary and increase their comprehension. Repeated reading not only helps children learn to read but also has an impact on school success. Lifelong enjoyment of reading is directly related to daily reading.

Reading aloud is not just for children who are too young to read on their own. In our next article we will give specific tips on how to read aloud, as well as suggestions as to what you can read aloud to children from birth to age 12.

Talk to your child in normal, everyday language. Communicating with your child, from infancy onward, is one of the most pleasurable and rewarding experiences for both parent and child. Children are avid learners at all ages, absorbing information through daily interactions and experiences with other children, adults, and the world. Your baby is listening to everything you say, and he's storing it away at an incredible rate. Instead of using "baby" words, teach him the correct names for people, places and things. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep it simple. By using "baby talk", children don't have a chance to broaden their vocabulary beyond the very basics, and they don't develop proper speech patterns.

The more interactive conversation and play a child is involved in, the more a child learns. Reading books, singing, playing word games, and simply talking to your child will increase his vocabulary while providing increased listening opportunities. Here are a few suggestions to help improve your child's communication skills:

· Talk to your toddler about what she did during the day or what she plans to do tomorrow. "I think it's going to rain this afternoon. What shall we do?" Or discuss the day's events at bedtime.

· Play make-believe games.

· Read your child's favorite books over and over and encourage her to join in with words she knows. Encourage "pretend" reading (let your child pretend she is reading the book to you).

Play rhyming games with your child. You can help your child improve auditory (listening) skills by teaching how to rhyme. Knowing how to rhyme will help your child read word "families" such as let, met, pet, wet, and get. Notice that rhyming words have same sound endings but different beginning sounds. Some words don't look the same: ache, cake, steak but they rhyme.

To summarize, learning how to read begins in children's ears. Parents lay a foundation for success in reading by talking to a child, reading books to him, and playing auditory games such as rhyming. The more books you read, the bigger your child's vocabulary becomes. A bigger vocabulary allows him to recognize lots of words while he reads. If you've read books to him about cheetahs and warthogs, it's more likely he can read those words when he comes across them as he reads on his own.

Tom & Shelley Cooper

Tom is a Director in a large humanitarian aid organization and Shelley left a successful career as a financial analyst to work in education because of her love and concern for children. They have two children who were the inspiration for their web site: http://educational-toys-4u.com

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