Remember the excitement and joy you felt when your child started to speak? Sounds led to words, words to sentences, and sentences to conversations. You encouraged their speech with interactions, imitation, questions and communication. Being able to converse with your child opened a new world for you both.
It’s equally exciting when your child learns to read! I teach my students that, "First we learn letters, letters make words, words make sentences, and sentences make stories." Breaking down reading to this sequence lets your child know there is a pattern to reading. Knowing the pattern removes some of the anxiety children might experience when they are first learning to read. Just as you helped and encouraged your child to speak, you can help and encourage them to read.
Here are four simple activities to encourage reading:
- Read together every night. The benefits of as little as five or ten minutes of bedtime reading are extraordinary. Let their interest generate what you read together. If your child likes dinosaurs, for example, get some dinosaur books from the library and read a page or two together before bed.
- Just as you talked to your child, let your child see you reading. Newspapers, magazines, books, e-mails, web articles, etc. all subtly reinforce the importance of reading in everyday life.
- After you read a sentence with your child, have him find a certain word in that sentence. For example, if you read, "The dinosaur bones were found in a cave," ask your child to point to the word that says "cave." Have him find other words in the sentence. This activity helps your child build a "sight-word" vocabulary.
- Often children want you to read the same story again and again. In a familiar story, substitute or change a word. For example, "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the piano...? Your child will laugh and easily correct you with the proper word.
Just like speech, every child’s reading ability develops at their own pace. With patience and consistency you can easily help your child discover the joy of reading.