Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Does the Research Say About Teaching Children to Read

The internet is filled with pages of people offering parents advice on how to best teach their children to read.  They offer endless items to purchase so that you can truly be prepared to give your child a life-long love of learning... with this item or that... all for the low low price...

I am reminded of the horrible Baby Einstein videos that had mothers hooked 10 years ago with promises of making their babies smarter. According to decades of research, plopping your infant in front of the TV is the exact opposite of what you should do. Similarly, the research on kids emerging literacy doesn't support any of those "tools" or videos or video games or workbooks.   In reality is, if you want to help your children learn to read, or better yet develop a life-long love of books, there are only a few things you have to do and they don't involve buying a single thing.  Pair these 3 tips to teach you child to read with the 3 tips to develop a love of reading and you have yourself a life-long lover of books.

3 Tips to Teach Them to Read

1. Teach them that each letter has a sound & teach them the sound each of the letters makes. They need to understand that each letter represents a sound.

2. Teach them the blending sounds, for instance 'sh' 'th'  'bl' 'st'.

3. Read to them aloud and have them follow along to see you put this blending into action. Have them practice sounding out the words with you once they have the first two steps down.

3 Tips to Develop a Love of Reading

1.  Read to yourself.  Get a good book, put your feet up, and dive in.  Seriously.  Modeling reading is the most important thing you can do.  Kids need to see that books are worth YOUR time.  They need to see that you find value in the written word.  They will model your behavior so do you want them playing on a phone or iPad or reading a book?

2.  Read to them, even after they start reading themselves.  Read to them more interesting and challenging things than they can read themselves.  This helps them to hear more complex sentence structures, more interesting plots, and more difficult vocabulary.  It also teaches them basic literary concepts that are just above their actual reading level.

3. Let them pick their own books.  Don't micromanage their reading lists.  A student once said he never knew there were 'good' books out there so he never really wanted to read. Take them to the library and help them find books with which they connect.  We all have a favorite genre (or two or three), so help them find their favorites.  My eldest loves fantasy series, my second loves non-fiction and Garfield comics, my third born loves Barbie books (YUCK!) and Disney stories, and my youngest is a huge fan of princess stories. They love going to the library because they can choose what ever they want from the whole youth section.  If they want to try something new they can for very little risk.

Wether or not you are a big reader, literacy is certainly something that every parent should encourage in their children.  Giving your children the gift of reading is priceless and helping them develop a love for books is something that they will have their entire life.  A good book can serve as a short term escape from a trying world, or as entertainment on a rainy day.  It can be a source of learning and exploration. It can open us to new ways of thinking of the world around us as well as helping us grow internally and spiritually.  Giving them this gift of literacy really can be* as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Thanks for stopping by!

*if your child is particularly struggling to read reach out to the specialists for some help.  It may be that your child needs a little more help 1:1.  Reading disorders abound but we have gotten really good at coming up with ways to help kids who look at words differently.  

** Special thanks to Reading Specialist Mary Pivonka, MEd for her professional guidance on this post 

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