Tips for New Parents: Help Your Child Develop Reading Readiness
by Michael Levy
It has been said that parents are the first educators. And, whether parents elect to traditionally educate their children or dedicate a significant portion of their own time, effort, and resources to homeschool their children, the fact remains that parents can, should, and do begin educating their children long before any sort of formal education begins.
Many parents, especially new and homeschooling parents, hesitate to "push" a child into reading before they are "ready." However, reading is merely a visual representation of the spoken word. And, just as we teach our children to talk and the appropriate words for objects and people, we can begin early to teach our children how letters (i.e., symbols) represent certain sounds, and when those letter symbols are grouped, they form words. This natural education process is less "pushing" than it is simple language acquisition. Some educators and experts refer to this process as pre-reading.
Pre-reading Leads to Reading Success
Pre-reading activities begin early and most parents aren't even aware they are preparing their young children to read. Parents might sing the alphabet song to help a cranky baby get to sleep. A child's bedroom or playroom might be festooned with an ABC border. Vibrant letter magnets could adorn the refrigerator enabling parents and children to form words. These (apparently) unusual activities are what prepare children to learn to read.
Pre-reading is really all about exposing the child to both spoken and written language. Parents can set their children up for success without pushing by making sure that they have the maximum exposure to these activities. Technology has even given children a new opportunity for early learning called syllabics. Syllabics, which focuses on the sounds associated with all letters, or phonics, which deals mainly with the sounds associated with the consonants, can be easily learned with readily available preschool computer software.
Pre-reading, Games, and Conversation
Even before children learn to talk, parents naturally set them up for verbal communication. How many times have we all witnessed parents who talk to their children while dressing them? That parent might say something like "Here's your pretty pink dress!" or "Would you like to wear the red shirt or the green one?" Parents who converse with their children long before those children can hold their own end of the conversation, are, without even trying, teaching their children pre-reading skills.
Another way young children learn pre-reading skills is through exposure to those well-recognized early reader board books. These books, made from thick cardboard and easy for less-than-nimble fingers to manipulate have simple, colorful pictures and short, basic words. They aid pre-readers to link words with objects and people in an entirely different way than when they were learning from the adult who put an object into their hands and told them its name or when they began to understand that each person has an individual name.
Measuring Pre-reading Success
The success of a parent's pre-reading instruction can actually be measured. In general, children who have had lots of pre-reading activity exposure begin speaking earlier than children who have not. Consider that research indicates that parents who speak to their children often seem to have kids who begin to speak at an earlier age. Parents who limit how much they speak to their very young children might notice that those children are "late" talkers.
Children learn quickly and naturally, given the opportunity. And, although parents might be hesitant to push their children into learning, they must also understand that it is their responsibility to give their children the tools they need to develop the proper pre-reading skills. Providing children with fun and interesting ways to develop language skills is very different from requiring a minimum number of formal teaching hours for pre-reading children. An important scenario is to focus on learning fun. The second might be more along the lines of the "pushing" that parents are trying to avoid. Knowing the difference between the two can set the stage for reading success.
Michael Levy is a well-known teacher and university researcher who has published more than 250 articles about learning. His latest project is Reading Buddy 2.0, software for teaching children to learn to read basic English using an exciting syllabics methodology. Would you like to know for sure if your child is ready to learn to read? Find out how with your free copy of Reading Buddy 2.0.