Reading is one of the most important skills young children must learn as they begin school. Determining how to teach a child to read requires patience, knowledge of early intellectual abilities and a flexible approach. The first steps in teaching basic reading skills are often the most challenging. However, whether you are a parent or a teacher, cultivating a love of reading will benefit a child throughout his or her lifetime.
Before teaching your child basic reading skills, consider whether s/he is ready to begin reading. Most children begin reading in first grade, although other kids learn to read at age four or five. Think about the child’s general intellectual abilities and whether s/he shows curiosity about reading materials. Does s/he enjoy story time? Has s/he begun pointing to words or following along as you read to him or her? These are signs that a child may be ready to begin learning how to read.
Many scientific researchers have developed theories about how children learn to read. Psychologists and education experts have identified several key abilities that help with reading.
Phonemes are the smallest units of language, representing the key sounds made during spoken speech. For example, the “P” or “CH” sounds are considered phonemes. Phonemic awareness refers to a child’s ability to identify and manipulate these individual word sounds. When teaching a child to read, the National Reading Panel recommends using the following tasks to improve phonemic awareness.
Most people have heard of the program “Hooked On Phonics,” but what is the importance of phonics in teaching a child to read? Phonics refers to the ability to connect sounds (or phonemes) to a particular letter of the alphabet. If phonemic awareness teaches a child how to recognize sounds, phonics teaches him or her how to connect those sounds to the written word. The following exercises can improve phonics abilities and are an essential part of teaching a child to read.
Once a child has developed phonemic awareness and a solid understanding of phonics, he or she is well on the way to reading. The next step is to build fluency by exposing the child to new words and challenging his or her abilities. Reading familiar stories multiple times helps when children are learning the alphabet and sounding out words. Next, choose a slightly more challenging book with novel words. Encourage your child to sound each word out, thinking about each letter and how it sounds.
In addition to reading with your child and providing feedback when he or she struggles with a word, it is important for your child to read independently. This builds confidence and a child’s ability to make meaning of new words. With patience and consistent practice, your child will soon be decoding words and understanding written sentences.
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