How to teach your child to read [START HERE]

Welcome back to Best Case Parenting. I have already told you how not to teach your child to read, so of course now I need to show you the correct way. Here it goes, the ‘teach your child to read’ guide. This guide is specifically designed for parents and should provide a good starting point.

Before we start…

A warning before we start. Please do not think you can read this article and suddenly know everything to teach your child to read. This is a complex subject and you should see this article as a starting point on your journey, not the final destination 🙂 If you don’t have the time or patience to reseach and learn the process, I would recommend you take a look at my favourite course for parents on the subject. This will give you a quick and easy system to follow even if you don’t have the full knowledge. This course is called Children Learning Reading.

I also have an article talking about teaching a child to write, if you are interested 🙂

Oh, and why should you listen to me? I have been a teacher of 3-5 year old children for over thirteen years, teaching phonics on a daily basis.

Get tips and ideas on teaching your child to read.

Can’t I just piece together a strategy from the internet?

This is a major problem I see with many parents right now. They think they can just jump on Google or Youtube and work out a strategy to teach their child reading in no time! The problem is that, if you have no background in teaching reading, you will have no idea which information is good and which is not. You won’t know the appropriate order to teach different techniques and will properly end up doing it all wrong and stressing your child out. So no, you can’t just piece together a reading strategy from the internet 🙂 Not if you wan’t to get it right!

I would encourage you to read my other article about the worst ways to teach a child to read if you need more convincing about this 🙂

What is the best foundation to teach a child to read?

This is the most important part and unfortunately this is the part I see a lot of parents missing out. Or even if it is not missed out, the parents don’t realize the importance and weight it carries.

Believe it or not, the best foundation to get a child ready for reading is to encourage the development of a love of reading! In the early stages this is a love of books. When they grow to love books a child will have a natural motivation to learn what the text says in these books. This will make your life much easier when it comes to teaching reading.

Think about it, even as an adult, what do you think if you have to learn about something you are not interested in? Maybe you have to go on a course with your work that doesn’t interest you! These are the times you will feel bored, time will go slowly and you will want to fall asleep 🙂 Think about how much worse this must be for a young child. This is why developing a love of books is so important first before you try to teach them reading!

How do I develop a love of books in my child?

This is all well and good, but how do you develop a love of books in children. The most obvious part is to make sure your child is surrounded by high quality children’s books from an early age. You can buy these books or you can go to your local library on a regular basis. If you are short on cash, thrift or charity stores are also a good source of children’s books. Now that your child has books in their environment, make sure to read to them on a daily basis. Pick a routine time every day and read a book to them. Simple as that.

Build a child
Build a love of books with role play!

However, there is another layer to developing a love of books. When your child starts developing favourite stories or story genres you can do more to encourage their interest. You need to bring these books to life and encourage creative play around them. Buy dress up clothes, toy characters or whatever else is available to enable your child to act out these stories in different ways. Create a scene from the story with Lego or other similar toys. By encouraging this play around the stories you are deepening their interest and enjoyment of them.

Do these two things and you will have a book lover in no time 🙂

When should I start?

I get asked this question a lot of times, but it is hard to answer. Every child is different and every child will be ready to read at a different time. Ideally, you want to start the process a year or so before they start school, so that they have a grounding when they enter school. However, if you follow my advice above to develop a love of books first, you can start whenever your child starts showing a natural interest in the words in their favourite books. I have seen 2 year old children learning to read, which is fine as long as they are interested and not forced to do so against their will.

How to teach my child child to read?

With all the groundwork out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. This is the process you should go through to teach a child to read.

The tuning in phase

Contrary to a lot of parents believes, you don’t just sit down and start teaching letter sounds straight away. Before we do this, it is a good idea to help develop your child’s listening skills. Being able to hear and differentiate sounds in their environment will help greatly when they need to listen for sounds in words.

These are the main ways you can do this:

  • Play listening games involving sounds in their environment. Go to the park to listen and identify the different sounds. Record and playback some common sounds from your house and ask your child to guess what they are. This is easily done with modern smartphones. Play musical instruments and talk about the different sounds they make. See if you can vary these sounds by playing the instrument in a different way.
  • Read stories and sing songs with rhymes in them. Play a rhyming bingo game to start developing an understanding of rhyme.
  • Clap out the syllables of words in a chant. Start with your child’s name and then say short rhymes together, clapping out the syllables of each word as you go. This is helping your child start to realize that words are divided up into sounds.

Choose Your Programme

Now, you need to choose the phonic system that you will use to teach your child to read. I would recommend checking with the school you are hoping to send your child to, maybe you can match the system to the one they use in school. This would lessen any confusion around phonics in your household.

Before teaching your child phonics you need to find the best system that fits your situation.

Introducing Letters and Sounds

For this article, I am going to show you the example of the Letters and Sounds programme from the United Kingdom. Just be aware that you can use any reputable phonic programme that you see fit. As long as you have a framework to follow you will be fine. This framework will make sure you are doing the right things at the right times.

The basic premise of this particular system is to teach phonic sounds and tricky words together, but in a specific order to suit most new learners. As your child starts learning the phonic sounds they can begin playing around with making short decodable words such as ‘at’ or ‘sit’. Tricky words are those that can’t be sounded out or decoded in this way, so they have to be learned by sight. Learning the tricky words alongside the phonic sounds will help your child to read short sentences much faster.

As well as sounding out short words, you also want your child to recognize the sounds in words. Start first with first sound in a word, then the ending sound and finally the sound in the middle.

With the Letter’s and Sounds system you are taking your child through a series of levels or phases, teaching a certain set of phonic sounds and tricky words at each phase. This is vital, as this order has been designed to suit most new phonic learners.

There is a great website which will lay this out very clearly, starting with Phase 2 (the first one we will start with). View the list HERE.

You will see that this phase has five sets to work through, each one giving you exact tricky words and phonic sounds to learn. Take your time to teach these to your child at a pace that suits them. Make sure to practise and play around with blending or sounding out short words as soon as they know their first set of sounds, as this skill takes time to learn.

SO I SHOULD JUST DRILL MY CHILD WITH FLASHCARDS?

This is another problem I often see with people that have no background in teaching reading to children. They just print out flashcards of the phonic sounds and tricky words they want their child to learn and start drilling them in rote learning fashion.

You might be able to do this occasionally in small doses, but do not use this as your sole teaching method. Most children will find this boring and you kill any love of reading they had in no time 🙂

When teaching reading to a child, don

When working with young children, you need to find a game or a purpose behind your teaching to make it fun and engaging. Here I will give you some simple examples, but you can find many more online. This could be a whole article in itself!

Let’s take the first set of sounds as an example S A T P I N. I would rotate the following games to learn these sounds and tricky words:

  • Memory games. Two sets of matching cards. Spread cards out on the floor and take turns to turn over two and find a matching pair.
  • Board games. Make a simple board game with sounds/tricky words on. When child lands on a square they say the relevant sound.
  • Hide sound cards around a room and ask your child to find them. Each time they find one they say what is on the card.
  • Quizzes (better done to finalize learning of a set). Simply quiz your child on phonic sounds or tricky words in the set, seeing how many they can get correct in a row. Set it up like a game show, with pretend buzzers and a scoreboard.

I would supplement this with games around recognizing sounds in words and sounding out short words. For example:

**Put 3 sound cards out on the floor . Say a word and ask your child to jump to the sound at the start of that word.

**Funny or real word game. Get some phonic sound cards. Put an X on the back of the vowels (AEIOU). Ask your child to draw three cards, making sure the one in the middle is from the vowel pile (this is why we put an X on the back to make it obvious). Sound out the word and decide if it is a real or a funny word.

Again, these are just some ideas to get you started. Make sure to research more games and rotate them to keep it fun for your child! Unless you find out they really enjoy a particular game.

Anything Else to consider?

  • Use lower case letters in flashcards.
  • Keep teaching sessions to 5 or 10 minute daily blasts. Young children can’t focus for much longer, and they will take it on board better when daily.

What should I do now?

I have explained in a nutshell what I think you should do (based on my experience) to teach your child reading. If you decide to go it alone, you now need to go and do some more research on the program you want to use and the finer details of teaching your child. This 2000 article is not enough on its own. This is an important skill you are teaching, you must get it right!!

As I said above, if you don’t want to do it alone I would highly recommend the Children Learning Reading system that is specifically aimed at parents. Actually, the person behind this program is a parent who has done all the research I talk about above for you! I reviewed the system on this website and loved it. You will get a simple to follow step by step way to teach reading, that anyone can follow.

If you want to find out more you can go look at the Children Learning Reading official website HERE.

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