The first time a child reads aloud is a proud and joyous moment for both parent and child. Although most formal reading instruction begins in kindergarten, parents play a crucial role in building the foundation for their child’s future reading instruction. In order to learn how to read, your child needs to grasp several important prerequisite concepts. Since every child is different, there isn’t a magic age or grade at which formal reading instruction is best. Above all, expose your child to reading and books regularly and let his interest level guide the way to reading success.
Concepts of Print
If you give a book to a 6-month-old, chances are he’ll chew on the corner or gaze at the pictures even if they are upside down. If you read to your child regularly, his habits toward books will change. Fast-forward a year and the same child will likely hold the book upright, look intently at the pictures while naming or pointing to simple objects and bring books to adults to read to him. These concepts of print are essential in teaching your child to read and they will develop naturally just by providing a reading-rich environment.
Formal reading instruction is most successful when a child has a healthy print motivation. According to professionals at the Lexington Public Library, a child with print motivation likes to be read to and spends time looking at books by herself. She requests to be read to regularly, she likes to read pages back to an adult or “reads” entire books from memory. A child with print motivation knows that books hold interesting facts, funny stories or tales she can relate to and she’s eager to learn to decode the words herself.
Letter and Sound Recognition
Your child’s formal reading instruction actually begins quite informally with learning the alphabet. This usually occurs during the toddler years when your child is eagerly exploring the world and asking questions at every turn. Toddlers and preschoolers sing the ABCs, learn the letters in their own names and gradually express interest in identifying the other letters of the alphabet. Once the letters can be identified, it’s time to learn the letters’ corresponding sounds. When your child knows each letter and what sounds they make, he may be ready for formal reading instruction.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear the individual sounds in words. Many parents teach phonemic awareness to toddlers and preschoolers without being aware of what they are doing. You probably say things like, “Your name starts with ‘J’, like j-j-jelly or j-j-jump!” Segmenting beginning sounds is basic phonemic awareness. As children progress, they learn that every word is made up of several individual sounds. In order to formally learn to read, children must understand this important concept.