The beginnings of reading start long before children learn the alphabet. To learn to read a child must want to learn to read and for a child to want to learn to read they must be exposed to language from an early age.
What most parents don’t realise is that they are naturally doing so many things right. Young children don’t need to be sat down with educational aids in order to learn to read – I’ve composed a list of the simple stuff that you’re likely already doing that is better than any of the “educational products” on the market.
During Pregnancy – Laugh, sing and hum as much as you can. Your baby loves the vibrations. Personally I don’t buy into the “spending hours talking to your belly” philosophy. The baby learns your voice as you talk to the people around you of course it doesn’t harm any one to talk to your belly… especially after one of those swift kicks to the internal organ you never knew you had before!
New Borns – Wearing a baby in a sling is calming for the baby but also helps remind the parent carrying the child to talk to the child. Even though your baby is barely concious in the world, hearing the parent’s voices is soothing and helps the child develop the language parts of their brain.
6 months onwards – Keep up that dialogue with your child, use their name frequently as studies have shown that it is the first word that they understand. As children learn words they use them as placeholders in the sentences you speak in order to help understand them.
– Help children learn nouns by naming things as you use them. For example “spooon, knife” etc. If you child points at something, hold it up and tell them what it is before you give it to them.
– Don’t be shy to sing silly songs and read your child rhyming stories like “Goodnight Moon” or some of the simpler Dr Seuss books. These silly and nonsencical stories teach children a lot about language.
Toddlers – Keep up with the dialogue, the silly songs and the stories. The more you interact with your child the more developed their language centres of the brain will be.
– Try to read a story to your child every night. As you read, stop and ask questions like “What do you think will happen next?” “How do you think that the boy feels?” and any thing about the pictures in the book. I love the illustrations in children’s books there are often tiny details to be discovered in the pictures that add to the story beautifully.
Preschool – Teach your child to write their name then have fun spotting the letters from their name on signs around town.
– Keep reading at night to your child… especially books that rhyme.
– Keep playing silly games and singing silly songs together.
– Don’t feel that your child needs to be reading or even knowing all the alphabet yet. Once you’re child is ready for it you will know, waiting for your child to direct their learning instead of pushing them too soon may be one of the biggest gifts you give them in life.