Learning to read is an essential part of childhood since this is how children will communicate with, learn from, and better understand the world around them for the rest of, well, forever.
But it isn’t always easy to engage an energetic, boisterous preschooler or kindergartener in looking at a book — we know that. Sometimes learning to read requires stepping outside the page, utilizing signs and symbols in the real world, and emphasizing storytelling as an interactive experience.
Here are three über simple tips on how to teach kids to read.
Start with phonemic awareness
A phoneme refers to the individual sounds that make up words. For example, understanding that “dog” starts with “d,” which is a “duh” sound, establishes phonemic awareness. Studies have shown that the best predictor of success in kindergarten and first grade is the ability to separate words and syllables into their own sound units.
Very simple activities practiced at an early age can encourage strong phonemic awareness.
Try this to develop sound recognition for the letter “r”: “R makes the rrrrr sound. Do we hear rrrrrr in rrrrrrred? How about in cirrrrrcle? What about in Bbbblue?” If your child is able to distinguish the rrrrrr sound from the bbbbb sound, they are off to a great start!
Another way of how to teach kids to read to help children understand phonemes is one we should all be familiar with: The sounding it out method! Break down simple words like “sun” and “run” simply by the way they sound, emphasizing each letter as you go. Ask your child to repeat the sounds as you make them.
Reading Rockets even suggests explaining to the child how to make the sound with their mouths — by pursing their lips to make the “w” sound or closing their mouths to make the “b” and “p” sounds.
Choose material that suits their specific interests
You know your little ones better than anyone. Seek out reading material that matches their interests.
For example, are they going through an automobile phase? The one where they point at everything that has wheels with glee and fascination? Stock up on books about trains, trucks, and cars, like the Trash Truck series from Max Keane or the classic “Little Engine that Could.”
Remember, too, that representation is important. Thankfully, the children’s literature market is beginning to diversify, publishing more books that encourage kids of all backgrounds to embrace the unique qualities that make them who they are, like “I Am Enough” from author Grace Byers. Before you fill up the bookcase, do a Google search or ask your local librarian to help you find books that represent your family and encourage diverse perspectives.
Budding bookworms will be pulled in by images of what they love and features they recognize, which makes it much easier to keep their attention while you identify and sound out words on the page.
Find learning opportunities in the real world
Words are everywhere! By pointing out spelling and letter sounds on signs, labels, books and literature around the house and in the world, you’ll be teaching your tiny scholar how to engage with reading in the day to day.
Here’s an idea: Try a car game! When driving or on the road, make a game of identifying the letters on license plates. With older kids, get them to spell out words on signs as you pass by. This also works in the subway station (if you have some time to pass) or on the bus.
Try dialogic reading
Dialogic reading refers to interactive reading. As opposed to passively sitting and taking in a text, children are encouraged to engage with the material by guessing what might come next, interpreting characters’ decisions, and more.
For example, say you’re reading “Where the Wild Things Are” with your own mini wild thing. Ask questions like: “Where do you think the monsters will take Max?”; “Why do you think Max wanted to go home instead of staying in the jungle?”; and “What kind of animal do you think this monster looks like?”
By showing your young reader that text is something they can get involved with and take part in, they’ll understand the importance of storytelling and be motivated to learn to read!
Pro tip on how to teach kids to read : Keep up to date on your child’s reading progress while they’re at school or daycare using a childcare center software like Wündercare!