Through the years there has been much debate over what is the best way to teach and prepare children for reading. You could surf the web and find literally hundreds of articles supporting a number of widely varying approaches to reading. I do not claim to have found the best way, nor do I propose that the excerpts written about in this article are the best or only approach. In teaching my own three children to read, I have learned that various approaches are often needed, depending on the child and on the parent. Here are some guidelines that you may wish to consider in teaching or preparing your child to read.
Immersing in the Language: Most of you all know the importance of being immersed in the language you are trying to learn! Tell stories and discuss daily events with your preschooler. Enjoy books and magazines together. Read labels, street signs, cereal boxes. Let your kids see the importance you place on reading.
Preparing Independent readers: Naptime might be a thing of the past for you, but don’t lose that precious habit! Before your child can even read words, institute a quiet “reading” hour to replace naptime. Let him have a selection of books on his bed to look through. Tell her that you will be having your reading time in your room and that you will come and get her when the hour is over. If possible, put a digital clock in his room and write down what the numbers will show when the quiet time is over. If he gets bored with “reading” he can watch the numbers on the clock change.
Teaching Listening: Ask your child the type of questions that provoke thoughtful responses. Elicit her opinion on various subjects. Model listening. Give him your undivided attention when he is talking to you. Make sure she is giving you her undivided attention when you are explaining something to her. Avoid asking yes and no questions. This is also an age when a child wants to assert some independence. Offering choices forces a child not only to think through a matter (problem solving), but it also forces him to say more than a monosyllabic answer.
Developing Vocabulary through Speech: Research shows that there is a strong connection between listening and reading. Speaking normally to your children helps them to develop new and difficult vocabulary. Avoid talking down to your children.
Learning the alphabet in fun ways: The “alphabet song” is a good start, as is putting magnetic letters on your refrigerator. Use those letters to spell things like your child’s name. Once I read that a mom had put nametags on various items around the house (i.e. chair, couch, table, refrigerator, etc.). Then, before her children woke up, she would put two of the words in the wrong place and see if the child could find it. Before the child could even read, she knew that “refrigerator” was not “chair” because the length of the word. She learned that “table” was not “couch” because she knew the difference between “c” and “t.” [Hint: this is also a great thing for second language acquisition! Label things in your home in the language YOU are learning; then, let your child mix up some of them and see if you can spot the change. This also lets your children see you learning in a way that you are teaching.]
Providing background information: Setting up a story and following it with discussion questions prepares your child for understanding and comprehension. Ask your child to listen for a certain answer before you begin reading, and then be prepared to ask for that answer at the end of the story. Or, ask your child to stand up every time he hears a certain word or phrase in the story.
Telling stories to build a cultural base: Tell Bible stories and events from history over and over again. Have days where you and your children act out certain stories. Then, when a child begins to read a simplified version of the story, she is already extremely familiar with the words. Just like when we type, we are taught not to say C-H-I-N-A, but China. If a child is familiar with the words in a story, just seeing part of the word will spark saying the correct word from the context.