If you want to raise a reader, no age is too young to start teaching them the basics! But there’s more to “reading readiness” than the alphabet, phonics, and flashcards. While these are good tools, there are plenty of other non-academic, pressure-free ways to teach reading or simply prepare your child to read.
Laying a Strong Foundation
According to Lisa Guernsey, Director of Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, there are some things you can do with your child (even from a very early age) to teach reading. She says that:
“With a strong foundation of language development, fostered by lots of playful conversation, story time and read-alouds, children will have a much easier time decoding as well as comprehending printed text when they are taught to read in kindergarten and first grade. Putting flashcards in front of babies….is nowhere near as richly stimulating to children as communicating with them through real back-and-forth conversations about the world around them. Even if babies are still in the babbling stage, they are learning a lot about language by interacting with adults who respond to the sounds they make.”– Lisa Guernsey
Let’s dive into some of the specific suggestions she makes and talk about why they’re beneficial for your child’s reading readiness and development.
Read Aloud With Your Child
Reading aloud with your child is a valuable step to teach reading. Even if your child isn’t “paying attention” there are benefits to simply reading aloud while your child plays. They are hearing word combinations and becoming inspired by the story (even as they play with Legos or their dolls.) Additionally, if your child sees you reading books on a regular basis, they are more likely to develop an interest in reading as well. If your child has been showing extreme disinterest in reading, try letting them pick when you read, which books you read, and where you read (couch, bed, etc.) The more you allow your child to take ownership of the activity, the more likely they’ll be engaged.
Have Conversations With Your Child
Want to teach reading to your child? Strike up a conversation. Talking with your child is so powerful and has countless benefits. Studies show that having back-and-forth conversations often with your child boosts their language development and sharpens their literacy skills. You can talk to your child as you read, asking questions about the story as you go. Or you can chat and ask questions as you go about your day doing various activities such as going on a walk, doing chores, and playing.
Remember, there is no age limit to having a conversation! The way God has created our brains is incredible. You can begin talking with your child when they’re an infant, and those early conversations at the changing table (when they can’t even talk back yet!) act as building blocks to conversation and reading skills later in life.
Take Some Pressure off Yourself (And Your Child)
Reading shouldn’t be stressful for you or your child, so if it’s starting to feel like a chore, maybe change things up. Read shorter books, take your child to the library or a bookstore, make a book together, or let your child pick out a book on Amazon and count down the days until it comes in the mail. You don’t have to teach reading in an academic manner. As you weave reading into your days, your child will slowly but surely develop the skills and the desire to read.