Helping your toddler to read

By PENDA HONEYGHAN

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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TEACHING your child to read can be a complex process, especially when your little one has no interest at all in books. However, literacy specialist Georgette Johnson says that, instead of leaving it entirely up to the formal education system, you can give him/her a head start by exposing your child to reading material for fun as well as to build a range of reading skills from as early as the womb.

If you want to make your efforts to teach your child how to read a positive and rewarding experience, Johnson shares a number of strategies, below that could help:

Read to your children

From as early as the womb, you want to start reading to your child, then make sure that your efforts are more frequent once he/she is born. Johnson said that even outside of dedicated reading material you should read recipes while you cook, the captions at movie time, magazines in waiting areas, and even your own material in their presence. This can result in print motivation, according to Johnson, and generates interest in reading.

Help your child to develop the core reading skills

It will take a while for your child to develop the core reading components, but Johnson said that you will need to teach your child phonemic awareness, which is basically the ability to hear and be able to identify the different sounds in words; phonics, which is the ability to recognise the connection between letters and the sounds they make; building vocabulary over time, and this includes learning the definition of words and appropriate context; comprehension skills, which underscores understanding the meaning of material they read or listened to. As they grasp these over time your child will become fluent.

Teach your child nursery rhymes

According to Johnson, nursery rhymes and other catchy songs are not just fun activities that you can do with your child, they can also be crucial to helping your child develop his/her reading skills. She explains that when your child hears the sounds and syllables in words, it helps them learn to read.

Make reading fun

Children love interactive reading, they like dramatising and feeling like they are a part of the adventure. So encourage role-playing, practice being more expressive when you read to him/her. For example, wear facial expressions or act out the instructions of the book, play with tones or change your voice for each character to increase interest in reading.

Create a print-rich environment

Make your home print-rich. You can do this by making sure that there are plenty of posters, magazines, maps, and books that are accessible to your child.

You can also make simple word cards, starting with words such as cat, fan, mat, pot, and sit. Where possible, Johnson said that you can paste them to the actual objects or pictures. This will enable your child to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols as well as learn to decode words.

Choose reading material carefully

First, when choosing books, make sure you choose those that are age-appropriate. This will make reading much easier. Johnson said that you will want to go for books that are colourful, have pull-outs, pop-ups or those with buttons that prompt you to follow instructions.

Take turns when reading

Whether it's during your regular reading time or bedtime, take turns reading with your child. For example, your child should read every other page.

Stimulate critical thinking

Before you even open the book get your child to start thinking about the content, encourage him or her to say what he/she thinks the book is about based on the cover. As you go through the book you should ask your child questions and allow your child to pick your brain as well. Not only does it stretch their imagination, but it will also help them to better understand storylines and build comprehension skills.

Keep reading short, simple, and often

If you have been around a toddler for five minutes, then you have some idea how much a four-year-old can absorb over that short time. The fact is, toddlers have very short attention spans. As such, Johnson said to make reading meaningful. To accomplish more you should consider going for books and/or stories that are short and simple. Be sure to read to or with your child as often as you can.

Sound words out

Even as adults, sometimes when we stumble on unfamiliar words we have to sound them out. This is no different for children and they will get stuck much more frequently than we will. It is therefore important to make sure they are prepared to deal with these hiccups. The ideal go-to method is phonics. Johnson explained that when they sound out the letters of the words, help them to blend them, then say the word. There are times when this isn't possible and you might have to tell your child the word, repeat it a few times and move on.

Johnson said that as you teach your child to read, it is important that you always practice patience. “Don't get anxious or trigger anxiety in your child just because he/she is not reading at the pace that you want him/her to. Remember, children develop at different paces so don't get frustrated. However, if you suspect there might be an issue you should have your child assessed,” she advised.


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