We all know that reading is a fundamental skill for our children’s success. With a substantial amount of research, as well as my own lived experience, it is evident that reading sets the stage for a child's lifelong learning journey. As parents, we play a pivotal role in nurturing our child's reading abilities and fostering a love for books. In this blog, we'll explore effective ways you can support your children's reading development, focusing on two distinct age groups: 0-5 years old and 6 years and older. Let's dive in and discover the secrets to raising confident readers.
Developing Reading Skills in Children Ages 0-5
Did you know, children aged four months benefit from reading? Reading is a foundational skill that equips our child with the tools they require for language development as well as to build social and emotional skills. So even if your little one can’t quite read by themselves yet, it is incredibly important to inculcate this habit early on. Discover the practical steps and tips to help them embark on their reading journey with confidence and curiosity.
You’ve heard it before, but I have to reiterate - reading out loud to your kids is super important. And it’s never too early to start! In their early years, you can read to them, and slowly begin to transition to them reading aloud to you. This powerful moment together builds aural language skills and it also provides general information about the world. We just need to select age-appropriate books, create a cosy reading nook (we preferred the sofa or bed), and establish a daily reading routine. These simple steps can make a world of difference.
Reading is more than just combining letters into words; it's about grasping phonics, the true building blocks of literacy. What sets successful young readers apart is their ability to hear the subtle sounds within words, like the 'cuh' ‘aa’ ‘tuh; in cat.' To nurture this skill, engage your child in playful language games. Take a word, for instance, and transform it by altering one phoneme: Jen becomes Pen, then Hen, and later Men. Alternatively, break a word into its phonic puzzle pieces, like ‘train’ becoming 't’-’rain'.
Vocabulary is the cornerstone of reading comprehension. We should engage our children in conversations, introduce new words during daily activities, and play word games. During daily reading time, we should seize the chance to explore new words together. Surround a challenging word with its context, let the child guess its meaning, and then check it in a dictionary. I highly recommend repeating the words you learn in daily conversation. For example, if they just learnt the word "eating" be sure to say it out loud during meals.
When your child reads, don't stop at the words. Get them to tell you what the story was all about. If it's a tale, we can ask who the main characters were and what exciting thing happened. If you are reading non-fiction, have your child explain what they learned and how it all fits together. Reading isn't just saying words; it's about understanding the ideas and stories behind them. By discussing the text, we build greater comprehension. As they learn these skills early, we can ensure that they will be ready to conquer tougher reads down the road.
It can be tempting to focus primarily on fiction books with kids - whimsical tales of unicorns, dragons and princesses are just what is needed to capture a child’s imagination. But we shouldn't forget to also include nonfiction books. Not only are they treasure troves of knowledge about places, animals, and people, but children might actually prefer it! I recommend ensuring a blend of books so that you’ll be able to find the ones that your kiddo loves and will encourage them to build reading habits.
Nurturing Reading Skills in Children Ages 6 and Upwards
Just because our children can now read and go to school, doesn’t mean our work is over! We need to continue to nurture reading habits in older, school-going kids. Reading isn't just about books; it's a gateway to understanding the world. As kids grow, reading empowers them to explore new ideas, develop critical thinking, and build empathy. So, even if they've moved past the early years, we should foster a love for reading. Here are some of my top tips for helping your child with reading.
Implement Independent Reading
As our children grow older, we can implement independent reading time. This allows them to practice and experiment by themselves without having us constantly hovering around. An easy way to do this is by incorporating reading time as part of our daily schedule. As long as they have a variety of age-appropriate books and a comfortable reading environment, they're good to go! And finally, be sure to praise your child for their efforts and successes, no matter how small. One of my favourite tips is to reread books. Repetition builds confidence and enhances skills. After all, practice makes perfect!
Use Digital Resources
I know how hard it is to separate your kids from their devices. So, why not mix things up by encouraging reading on the devices? You can consider buying a Kindle or using a tablet to read. They also have extra benefits as an in-built dictionary where kids can look up new words. You can also explore audiobooks as they can help your children learn pronunciation and expand their vocabulary. Also, check out websites like BBC Bitesize and Reading Eggs to further develop their skills.
It might seem like a separate skill, but writing can boost children’s reading. Learning about the writing process, sentence structures and even just spelling greatly improves their ability to read and understand better. So, we should make sure our kids have the tools they need, like notebooks, pencils, and maybe even a colourful set of markers. They can be encouraged to write anything - from thank you notes, to diary entries, to creative stories. As writing is more than merely putting pen to paper, reading is a gateway to better compositions.
Visit Libraries and Bookstores
We can elevate our child's reading journey by making it into an engaging adventure. I love planning trips to local libraries or bookstores. These outings empower our child to explore and select books that pique their curiosity, fostering a sense of agency in their reading choices. Wandering through the rows of books can be a delightful experience - sort of like a child in a candy store! You can also turn it into a social activity. Organise a playdate at the library or bookstore, allowing each child to select a book. They can then engage in book exchanges, sharing and discussing their chosen stories. It’s all about instilling anticipation and excitement around reading.
By following these strategies tailored to your child's age group, we can become a reading advocate in their life. It's important to remember that every child is unique, so we should adapt these methods to suit our child's interests and needs. Building strong reading skills in the early years and nurturing them as our children grow will empower them to explore new worlds, expand their horizons, and embark on a lifelong love affair with reading. Happy reading!
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