5 Tips to Start Your Child Reading
By Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, PhD, and Carlyn Kolker
As children approach their school years, parent begin to wonder how their child is going to learn to read. When will that golden moment happen? But did you know that your child is soaking up the basics of reading long before he or she begins any formal reading instruction? That means that you have lots of opportunities to introduce early literacy skills and instill a love of reading in your child even before she trots off to full-time elementary school.
In Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development, parents learn about fostering oral communication skills in toddlers and pre-schoolers that can help lead to better literacy skills when their child learns to read. A good way to start introducing those early reading skills is simply by talking to your child about the written and spoken words all around you.
Like many parenting activities, you'll see the most success if you have some tricks up your sleeve: If you want your little reader to become interested in words and letters, you may have to work your magic on the sly. Think of these tricks as the reading equivalent of sneaking vegetables into your child's pasta sauce.
Use these child-friendly tips to encourage early literacy once your youngster reaches age 3 or 4:
1. Pick a "word of the day" with your child. Talk about that word a lot, and point it out in written language. Choose a short, simple word -- preferably something that occurs or appears a lot in your everyday life, like "mom" or "dad," "dog" or "cat," "car" or "bike," and "sun" or "moon." Talk about the first letter of that word. Say that sound a lot. Talk about how many letters the word has. Write the word down for your child, find a the word in a book, and look for all the occurrences you can find of the word.
2. Create rhyming words with your word of the day. Rhyming is a great way to familiarize your child with the different sounds that words and syllables make. (Cat rhymes with hat, bat, mat...) If your child helps you find words that rhyme with your word of the day, you'll be practicing early literacy skills. You can make this silly and fun -- and, of course, your child may never know he's actually learning something along the way.
3. Cook and read the recipes with your child. Most recipes, whether on a cake-mix box or in a book or online, use pictures with the text to show the steps involved. That means your child can start to figure out how the pictures help represent the words, and can often report to you how the steps should go -- something along the lines of, "Crack the egg in the bowl now, Mama."
4. Read signs with your child. Point out Stop signs and explain what they tell drivers to do. Ask your child to find Stop signs when you're out driving. Exit signs on highways are another common sign that he can look out for. Spell the words on the sign whenever he finds them.
5. Talk about the first letter of your child's name. Find words that start with that letter. If your daughter's names starts with a "C," point out words that also start with the letter -- "cars," "cats," "cookies," and so on. If your son's first name starts with a "Z," he'll know he's special when you visit the "zoo" and find the "zebra." Talking about the first letter of childrens' names always captures their attention. Ask them to look for the letter everywhere they go.
* * * *
Dr. Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker are co-authors of the new book, Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child's Speech and Language Development (Amacom 2017). Dr. MacRoy-Higgins is an associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Hunter College in New York City. She has a BS and MS in speech-language pathology and a Ph.D. in speech-language-hearing sciences. She has her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), is licensed in New York State as a speech-language pathologist, and has worked as a classroom teacher. Dr. Michelle has evaluated and worked with hundreds of children ages 6 months to 10 years with their speech and language issues. Carlyn Kolker is a freelance writer and former reporter for Bloomberg News and Reuters. Learn more atwww.timetotalkbook.com or on Twitter at @time2talkbook.