It’s never too early to start teaching your child to read; the earlier they start matching sounds with words on the page the easier they’ll find learning to read different kinds of texts. You can introduce your child to books by telling them bedtime stories from only a few months old and letting them look at the pictures so they start associating them with the sounds you’re making. You can then gradually start asking them to practise after you. Here are some other great tips on helping your child learn to read from a pre-prep school in London.
Playing games with your child that require them to listen to different sounds and repeat them after you is a good first step in helping them learn to read. Make a game of making silly sounds and asking them to copy you, then reverse it and copy any sounds they make. You could incorporate singing and dancing, for example, singing nursery rhymes and making up a dance to them. Ask your child to think of any words that rhyme with their name or get them to point to different parts of their body and say the correct word for them – anything which gets them learning different sounds.
When reading with your child, point to the words as you read so they start matching sounds with letters. This will also teach them the basics of reading, for example, how words are read from left to right and top to bottom on the page. Just getting them to find where a story starts and turn the page will introduce them to the concept of reading a book from cover to cover. Encourage them to anticipate what might happen next in the story and how characters might be feeling, and ask them what they thought of it once you’ve finished. Involving your child in active reading will nurture their interest in books while giving them strong foundations for learning to read.
Use word cards
Cut out some pieces of card and write simple words on them for your child to learn, and then prompt them to practise regularly, even if it’s just for five minutes while you’re dishing up dinner. Get them to sound each word out, i.e. saying the sound each letter in the word makes, and then saying the whole word several times. This will help build their phonics and decoding skills which are essential for learning to read. Make sure you switch up the order they practise the words in every now and then so they’re not relying on memory to get the correct answer. It’s also important to ensure they’re practising words which are appropriate for their stage of learning – if they’re too hard your child might feel demotivated when they can’t often get the right answer.
The most important thing is to make learning to read fun rather than a chore. Make use of educational TV programmes and games if needed (particularly if your child is a visual learner), which will help them learn phonics and essential decoding skills.