Reading skills are essential to learning all other subjects taught in school. The better the reading skills children have and the earlier they have them determines how rapidly and how well they will achieve in school. Failure to be able to read at grade level by 8 years old is predictive of future learning and behavior problems.
Parents Are The First and Best Teacher
Children develop language skills by listening to and mimicking their parents. When children are born they have the capability of producing any sound made in any language spoken in the world. During the early years, they hear the sounds and make the sounds that make-up the language spoken in their culture. The more time parents spend talking with their child the richer the language development of that child.
As children begin to say their first words, feedback from those around them help them to learn the meaning of the words and begin to use them to get things they want and to please those around them. They gradually learn how to put them together to form phrases and later sentences. Thus, they gradually learn how to speak and listen with fluency and understanding.
The process of reading and writing is simply “talking on paper.”
The only difference is that written symbols are used rather than sounds.
The child must learn the sounds of letters and combination of letters and how they string together to form words. That is what is called decoding. Once a child learns to decode they can understand communication through written language based on the skills developed through their development of oral language.
Reading to Younger Children
Just as parents should spend time each day talking to and with their young child, they should also spend some time each day reading to their young child. This spurs interest in books and as children become toddlers and preschoolers who want to imitate their parents doing all kinds of things, reading will become one of them. Parents need to read in a manner that generates enthusiasm and curiosity. They also need to talk with the child about what they are reading to promote in depth comprehension. Reading time should be fun as well as a time for bonding and learning. The Read-Aloud Handbook has been around for decades and is a must for parents who want to read to their kids. For suggestions on what to read to children at various age levels we suggest What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child–and All the Best Times to Read Them.
Reading With Older Children
Once your child can read, reading time shifts to listening to the child read and taking turns reading with them. Parents should continue to talk with the child about what is being read. If you want more suggestions on how to help your child improve reading comprehension we suggest 7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!.
Resources to Develop Avid Readers
Once children are readers, get a library card or join a book club to increase the reading material available. Subscribe to a children’s magazine that is geared to the child’s interests and age level. You could start a book of the week for younger children and a book of the month club for older kids and teens where both parent and child read the same book and discuss it when they have both finished reading. Then do something fun (like going out for a meal) to celebrate as you decide on the next book. Check for reading programs provided by your local library. Find out if they have story time for younger children and summer reading programs for older children and teens.
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