We've settled into 2017 and, despite starting the year off with good intentions, many of our New Year's resolutions have likely fallen by the wayside. However, even if you only stick to one resolution this year, pledge to make reading a year-long commitment for your family.
The ability to read is a precious commodity, and reading is imperative to the spread of information within our society. Many children learn to read quite easily, but literacy challenges can greatly affect them as they transition into adulthood. Even if your child does not demonstrate visible signs they are struggling with reading, they can still benefit from encouragement.
Here are a few tips from The Reading Foundation that will help different ages of readers throughout 2017 and beyond.
Make time to read to your child, even if they have not started speaking. Place your child in your lap while you read to them and surround them with a feeling of warmth and support. Keep in mind that your reading voice and regular speaking voice are slightly different, and your child will begin to recognize the difference between the two. Set aside time to read to your child each day; hearing your voice will build their listening comprehension.
For 4 to 6-year-olds:
Introduce your child to recognizing and naming letters of the alphabet--use alphabet books, magnetic letters, or other appropriate tools. You can also sing the alphabet to them until they learn each letter. Once they know the letters, have them say the names and point them out; learning the alphabet is a critical building block for your child's reading and spelling skills. You can also get creative by having your child build letters with Play-Doh or draw them with crayons, pencils and lined paper. Help them through each step of drawing the letter, but be patient as this skill can take some time to develop.
This is also a great age to introduce your child to the concept that every word consists of sounds, which can be printed using one or more letters. Take a simple word and break it into sounds--"hen", for example, is /h/, /e/, /n/. Show your child how to sound out words, and use the same approach using simple words that have regular letter/sound correspondences--Dr. Seuss books are an excellent resource for this.
Rhyming games are another option to help your child develop their skill in recognizing the sound patterns in spoken words.
For school-aged students:
At this age, it is important to limit your child's use of electronics. This can be difficult, considering our reliance on computers and smartphones, but it is imperative to set limits on your child's screen time and ensure they turn devices off well before bedtime. Encourage your child to read a book that interests them instead of playing games on an electronic device. Introduce them to non-electronic board games like Monopoly and have fun interacting with them.
Pay attention to your child's progress as a reader, and watch for any signs your child may be struggling. These signs can include refusing to practice reading or struggling with spelling, and they are often misinterpreted as poor attitude. If your child is struggling, use resources available at their school first. If this option is not satisfactory, see a specialist--like those at The Reading Foundation--that possess in-depth knowledge of the reading process. Addressing struggles with reading and literacy early on can help avoid detrimental impacts on your child's self-esteem and confidence.
Essentials of Assessing, Preventing and Overcoming Reading Difficulties by Dr. David Kilpatrick is an excellent overview of issues surrounding reading development and different approaches to reading instruction. As an informed parent, make it part of your New Year's resolution to read this book.
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