Get Reading Right—Tips For Parents

Surinder Sharma
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September 21, 2020

Parents play multiple roles in the lives of a child—caregiver, doctor, nurse, sports coach, cook, most importantly, and now more than ever, teacher. We live in a highly competitive society and every parent wants to make sure their child stands out in this dog-eat-dog world. It goes without saying that being able to read proficiently early on will give children an edge over their peers. Children's experiences with language and literacy during the first months and years of life can begin to form a basis for their later reading success. Research clearly shows that the more children know about language and literacy before they arrive at school, the better equipped they are to succeed in reading. With the ongoing pandemic, most preschools and elementary schools have closed, which has made the role of a teacher in every parent more important than ever, especially related to setting the foundation for language and reading. However, with this new role comes the anxiety and the question faced by all parents of whether they are teaching their child the right way to read. Here are some research backed tips that parents could follow to make sure their child is getting the best reading experience they can get at their age.

1.  Repetition of Recurring Words

Ideally we want our children to be able to grasp every word that is thrown their way but it is key that we understand that they have a finite memory and can only grasp a few words a day. As a parent, you have to be able to prioritize and teach them words they will be using very often for their age. For example, their name and some basic nouns and verbs. Repetition of these words will enable them to read on a basic level early on. An easy and simple way to ensure they are getting the best of basic vocabulary is by reading children's illustrated books with them. Most children's books use 60 to 75 percent of the Dolch List, a list of the most commonly used words in the English language. Flash cards are another fun way to engage in interactive vocabulary building and word recognition.

2.  Focus on Phonics

Phonics is a method for teaching an alphabetic language that stresses the acquisition of letter-sound relations and their use in reading and spelling. At an age where children are starting to speak, they are merely imitating the people around them. To them these are just sounds and noises. By teaching them the different pronunciations and sounds created from different combinations of letters, children end up learning how to read much faster. Phonemic awareness, the awareness of the smallest units of sound (phonemes), and the ability to manipulate these sounds is extremely important in bringing about early reading.

3.  Read In Front Of and With Children

When children are three to five years old, they have mastered one skill—imitation. For this reason, it is key that children see adults around them reading. If you read in front of your child, they will start to imitate you, be it paper or digital reading. This is a good way to get them interested in the prospect of reading. Expecting children to read by themselves in the initial stages of their childhood is a very far fetched dream. Constant encouragement is still required even if you are using digital read-aloud books. A very small percentage of children teach themselves to read without adult input. For this reason, parents' involvement is key in their child's reading development. Another very healthy practice is to read aloud to your children. Early language begins from hearing. Reading aloud helps them grasp vocabulary and its proper pronunciation much faster. According to scientists and early education experts, the use of illustrated and narrated books for children is the best option. The visual element adds more context to what they are reading and keeps them engaged.

4.  Make it Fun!

If you ask a child whether they want to play with a new Lego set or read a new book, most children will jump at the chance of playing with a new set of toys. This is why as parents, you have to make the prospect of learning and reading much more interesting than it is. There are a dozen ways to do this. One of the best ways is to make them increase their vocabulary by learning new words in song. Rhymes and songs have been proven to be one of the most effective ways to improve children's vocabulary. Flash cards are another fun and interactive way of learning new vocabulary and words. Setting up reading goals and offering rewards for achieving these goals, and recognition of certain milestones by way of badges are some other ways to make it fun and motivate children to read more.

5.  Be Patient

It might be worrying to see that your children are not reading as fluently or as well as your neighbor's child, but you must understand that every child is functioning on their own frequency. While some children pick up reading much faster than others, your child will pick it up sooner or later. Showing reservation in front of your child will only hinder their progress. You must stay calm and be patient. As established before, children are bound to imitate adults around them. If you lose your patience with them, they will lose patience with themselves.

In these trying times, it might be hard for a parent to juggle all their roles but by incorporating these small pointers you will be making a huge impact on your children's early reading development. By spending some amount of time everyday with your children on reading and learning by way of songs, flash cards, and read-aloud books, you will be able to see your child transform from a struggling, beginner reader to a confident, fluent reader in a few months. While this is what we usually expect the teachers at school to accomplish, you can proudly walk away knowing you did an awesome job wearing a teacher's hat!