Before you begin to teach your child to read, you need to first lay out a foundation to pave the way for reading success. Start preparing your child for reading early, so that when he is ready to learn to read, he will be eager and excited InshAllah! Here are 7 suggestions to prepare your child for reading.
1. Model Reading
As a parent, you need to read and model the reading habit to your child. Your child should see you reading often, so she can look up to you and see that you value reading and in turn, she will want to copy that. You don’t need to read a novel everyday, you can read magazines, cookbooks, letters and brochures, because in this era of electronic devices, we tend to read more from our computers, smart phones and tablets than from traditional paper versions.
Keep in mind though, that children also tend to associate playing rather than reading with electronic gadgets. So if you are reading off an electronic device, make sure that your child knows that you are reading and not playing games, shopping or scrolling through websites.
2. Read to your Child
You can start reading to your child even when he is still a baby. There are fabric baby books that contain bright colors and tend to be interactive as well. Your baby can pull things, scrunch it up and chew on it. At this stage, he is exploring the book. As he is exploring, you can talk to your baby about what he is doing to the book. He may not understand at this stage, but this is how he picks up language.
As your baby gets older, you can start reading board books that label things such as colors, animals or toys. Just point and say what it is. You can expand on it and give a commentary as well. When your child is about 3 years old, you can progress to picture books. Start with simple short stories, then as she gets older you can read longer stories.
Always remember that when you are reading to your child, put her on your lap. Children love sitting in their parent’s lap and listening to a story. It provides a comfortable and safe place for them to develop fond memories and a love of reading.
3. Look for Words
Words are all around us, from street signs to billboards, to names on buildings, raise your child’s awareness of these surrounding signs by pointing it out. You could say, “That sign reads one way, which means that we can only go this way.” By explaining the sign, you help your child to understand what the words mean as well. It can also be fun by walking or driving down the street with your child and playing a game of being the first to spot a certain word or street sign.
Start with an easy sign such as a ‘Stop’ sign. This sign is easily recognizable with its hexagon red shape. Tell your child that the word inside the red shape says “Stop”, and explain that it means that whenever anyone sees this sign, they have to stop their car. As you walk or drive around, see who will be the first to see the next stop sign. Once your child has learned one sign you can move on to learn another sign that has words.
4. Label Things
Just like the signs on the streets, you want to have signs in your house as well. Write or type out words to label the things in and around the house. You can label your furniture and garden. It really depends on which words you want to familiarize your child with. These labels are easily read by your child as they are attached to a piece of furniture. So the back of a chair would have the label ‘chair’.
And just like you would read street signs to your child, you want to read the home labels as well. Refer to these words often, otherwise it will blend into the decoration and furniture and your child won’t notice them anymore. When your child goes passed a label you can ask him to read what it says.
An important label for your child to learn is his name. Write his name on books, bags and some toys. Let your child have a name tag that he could wear whenever he wants.
5. Play with Letters
Introduce letters to your child by letting her play with magnetic letters. Start with lowercase letters first. Your child will have fun moving the letters around on a magnetic board or easel.
Children love playing with dough, so provide your child with some play dough and letter cutters. Show her how to use a rolling-pin to flatten the dough and roll it out. Then show her how to use the cutters to cut out letters.
Painting is another activity that children love. You can get sponge letters that can be dipped into the paint and pressed onto paper to make a letter print.
At this stage, you’re familiarizing your child with the letters of the alphabet so there’s no pressure to learn the name or sound of each one. If your child is interested and asks, then by all means tell him what the letter is. Or as he plays with a letter, you can point to the letter and casually say, “That letter is the letter ‘t’”.
6. Talk, Tell Stories and Ask Questions
Always talk to your child from the time she is born (even before this, as your child recognizes your voice while in the womb). Talking to your child will help her develop language skills and she will be able to pick up words faster and be able to communicate verbally with you much earlier. The more words she knows, the more she will understand. This will help with reading comprehension later on.
When you run out of things to say, tell stories! Children love listening to stories read to them and from book readings. You can re-tell traditional stories or make up your own with your child as the central character. The more he feels enraptured by these stories, the more he will want to read and write to discover his own stories. Asking questions will teach your child to be curious and to think about what has just been said. This too will aid in reading comprehension.
7. Turn on the Close Captioning When Watching TV
When you put the English subtitles on while watching TV, your child will soon notice that every time a certain word is said, the same text will pop up. This is one way your child can learn sight words.
How fast she memorizes the words depends on how observant she is and how often she watches TV. This does not mean that she should be allowed to sit in front of the TV for hours to pick up words, rather use it for those times when she is watching child-appropriate programs during your usual schedule.
These are the 7 ways to PREPARE your young child for reading. In my next article InshAllah, I will write on the 7 ways to support your child’s reading development InshAllah.