- Read to your child:
You have to start reading stories to your child from the time he/she is a newborn: it will become a moment of special bonding for both of you, and it will develop his/her love for books. If children don’t appreciate reading from an early age, their capacity for this activity will be lower in the future.
Everybody can decide what to read to their children, but we recommend reading them three or four books a day when they are small. After they grow up, I advise reading for about twenty minutes a day.
- Ask them questions:
Asking questions to children (when they are two or three years old) while reading them a book, stimulates them and is very helpful in the development of their comprehension. Actually, there are many children who can read very fluidly but don’t understand what they are reading; and if they don’t, their reading is neither genuine, nor productive. The questions during reading should enrich their vocabulary and make the children interact with the book.
- Offer a good example by reading yourself:
Even though your child may be fascinated by books from a very early age, his/her enthusiasm will decrease when realizing that nobody else reads in the house. If you don’t read regularly, you have to make an effort and read more often so that your son or daughter see that reading is something really important. Children need to see that their parents do read, otherwise they won’t pick up a book.
- Teach them to identify the letters in natural ways:
By this, we refer, for instance, to wooden letters that are often hung on the walls of the children’s rooms. Many mothers and fathers explain that due to those letters, their child has learnt to spell his name, or his sibling’s. Using this visual and attentional memory, they can learn many other things, like reading time on the clock (which is much easier to do if there is a clock on the wall, for him/her to watch every day), or the numbers.
The fact that the child is learning the alphabet is very important, but we consider that the learning method that he/she uses to achieve this knowledge is even more important.
- Combine different areas of development:
Children manage to learn better when they have many reasons to make an effort in this direction. This is why learning through practice and not so much through theory results in better and prolonged retentiveness. Once the child is familiarized with the alphabet, we must keep in mind that learning is less important than phonetics, that is, the way he/she sounds. We consider that it is necessary for the child to be involved in activities and games that exercise his/her gross motor skills. Other things that children enjoy as well are poems, songs and rhymes. We recommend that parents make a list of all the activities or games that their child likes most, in order to perform activities that suit them.
- Organize books according to genre:
When the child is around 5 years old and can make the difference between reality and fiction, we can help him/her discern between different book types: reality-based stories, fantasy, science-fiction, music books, poetry books. When a child classifies a book to a certain literary category, he will start to remember its details, will make an effort to categorize it, and will have to remember other books that he had read, pertaining to the same genre. After having read the book, this won’t take the child more than ten seconds.
- Word families:
Word families are composed of words that rhyme. Teaching children rhyming words is a phonological activity that helps them discern between different word patterns, which we consider is very important. Apart from learning about rhyming words, the children will also learn about language itself.
- Phonic awareness:
Phonetics involve the skill of spelling the sound of each letter, as well as learning the rules of the language, and it is an important component of literacy (although it should never become the main point of interest). Learning phonetic rules has to be a tool through which the child learns to decipher and spell words, on his/her way to reading.
When we talk about decoding, we generally refer to “the uttered sound”. It is an important element in teaching children to read, although not the most important. Once the child knows all the sounds of every letter in the alphabet, he/she has to learn to put words together (from the shortest to the longest ones). This activity can sometimes be difficult, but it is important to teach them in a creative way, so that they will find the activity more enjoyable and less strenuous.
- Frequent words:
The most frequently-used words in our language must be memorized by the child, so that he/she will become a good reader. Experts say that it benefits the child to make a list of such popular words for him/her to memorize.