How to Teach Your Baby to Read in Three Ways
Raising children from the time that they are small babies until they are young adults is no easy feat, but you’ve got this! You just need to take it one step at a time!
Many parents love the idea of teaching their kids to read as early as possible. After all, reading has been shown to help people be happier, healthier, and more driven. Wouldn’t getting an early start on reading just make sense?
Is it possible to do this? Today, we’ll talk about how to teach your baby to read as well as what kind of expectations you should have about their reading skills as they grow up with a book in their hands.
Expectation vs. Reality
Before we get into the specific methods of teaching a baby to read, we want to make it clear that there are things that you should and should not expect from babies. If you don’t have your expectations in line from the very beginning, you may become frustrated early on.
First and foremost, what comes to mind when you think of a baby learning how to read? Do you see a three-month-old or a three-year-old? People use the word “baby” to refer to kids of varying ages, but not all of these ages will be able to learn in the same way and same pace.
More often than not, babies are defined as those aged zero to 12 months. From ages one to three, children are then typically referred to as toddlers. To prevent any confusion, today, we will remain specific as to what ages we think are appropriate for each activity.
Reasonable Reading Expectations
With proper education, most children can start to read at a very young age, but it would be unreasonable to expect your three-month-old to be able to read. After all, most babies are barely starting to babble certain syllables or repetitive sounds at this age.
While it is awesome that you want your baby to get a head start and learn faster than other children, some limitations must also be kept in mind along the way. Sure, babies can begin to learn to read at three months, but they won’t be reading on their own for some time!
Keep your expectations in check while you are trying to teach your baby to read, and you will both be more satisfied. Overdoing it will lead to painful frustration on all sides, and this should be avoided at all costs!
When to Begin
We suggest that you practice good teaching and communication habits with your baby from day one. Talk to them, play with them, motion to specific items when you communicate with them, and more! By doing these things every day, you will be priming your baby for good learning.
To actually sit down with the methods that we will share below, however, it is suggested that you wait until your baby is at least three months old. At this time, they’ll start to be able to focus and understand more of what you are doing. By age six months to one year, you can begin the teaching-to-read project more earnestly.
How to Teach Your Baby to Read
Now that you have an idea as to when you can start teaching your baby to read, we’ll share with you below the three most common techniques used by parents all over the globe. These methods have been practiced for years and have delivered satisfying results.
Method #1: The Big Word Method
The first technique that you can do to help your baby be ready to learn to read is to show them big words. As such, we have dubbed this style of teaching as the “big word” method.
Sometimes, people call this method sight-reading. Why? That’s because, in this teaching style, you read the whole word at once rather than breaking down the word and reading its phonetic parts.
What Is the Big Word Method?
In this teaching technique, you will quite literally be showing your baby very big words! By printing out large visuals of every word that you want to teach, your baby will be able to see them, and you will be able to teach them.
Here is a break down of the method:
Step 1: Print very big words on flashcards so that your baby can see them.
Step 2: Show your baby the words very quickly; their brains can process what they see very fast.
Step 3: Speak the word in a loud, clear voice. Use a high-pitched sound to help them focus on it.
Step 4: Repeat the words frequently. It will take about 15 to 20 times for them to recognize it at first.
As your baby gets older and begins to be able to babble or respond to the words that you are teaching them, increase the number of words that you show them. Even if they aren’t saying the words yet, perhaps they are still in the process of recognizing them. Once done, you can begin to pair common words together, eventually building up to phrases.
This method will help your baby learn to sight-read and to recognize the sounds that go with certain letters. Phonetic learning will come much easier to them as they turn into toddlers and begin more formal reading lessons.
When Can This Method Be Used?
Because of how this method works, it is best to use this when your child is less than four years old. Up until this point, your baby’s brain is very capable of learning languages, words, and other skills. They will pick up the rules of phonetics naturally by using the sight-reading method.
After four years, however, we recommend using a phonetic-based system to teach your child to read if they haven’t learned yet. This will likely be more effective for them.
Why Does This Method Help?
This method helps with how babies learn because they don’t need to know the letters of the alphabet to be able to recognize shapes and patterns. Hearing phonics helps children progress to being able to read phonetically, or by sounding out words. Learning whole words first sets up a great foundation for phonetic reading later on!
There are two different types of learning languages: whole language and phonics. Both of these methods have their benefits, and we think using a combination of both is the most effective way to create very determined, happy readers!
Method #2: Reading Together
A great way to make reading enjoyable for your baby or toddler is to read together often. By making reading a fun part of the loving play between you and your child, the idea that learning to read is a difficult thing to do will be completely erased.
Making reading a two-sided conversation from a very young age will help your baby, and then toddler, understand things more quickly. When actively engaged, the lessons about phonetics, reading, and more will sink in more effectively.
Try following these tips when reading with your child so that they can be part of the experience even when they are too little to read on their own:
- Read to them and allow them to make noises, point, and coo along with you. This is a sign that they are engaging with what they see and what you say.
- Let your child choose the book, even if they seem too young to really understand. This gives them power and independence with reading.
- Just keep reading. The longer that they hear the way that a fluent reader sounds, the better reader they will be later in life.
- Ask them questions while reading. If they are too small to understand or answer the questions on their own just yet, answer the questions for them. They are always listening!
As your child grows and learns more, you will be able to increase the difficulty of the material and of the questions that you read and answer together. Once your child can sound out or sight-read words on their own, alternate reading with them to continue to expand the way that this reading together time helps them.
This method can be used at all ages. Start doing this with your child as soon as you want to; you’ll know when they’re ready to start reading with you!
Method #3: Learn How Reading Is Taught
The last method that we believe to be very important for parents to employ is more focused on you, the parent, rather than the child! That’s right; you need to do the bulk of the heavy-lifting in this technique.
To be the best educator that you can be, you need to learn how reading works and how reading can best be taught. This means that you should learn the different skills that make up the reading skill. Once you understand these skills, you will better understand effective ways to improve how your child reads.
These are the main five components of reading:
- Phonemic awareness (hearing and changing different sounds)
- Vocabulary (words, their definitions, and understanding them in context)
- Phonics (connections between letters and sounds)
- Fluency (reading with understanding, accuracy, and eventually, speed)
- Reading comprehension (understanding the meaning of words and text)
Every single one of these skills is an important part of reading. By improving these skills individually, the overall reading power that your child has will be improved as well. If any one of these skills is lacking, it will ultimately hurt the rest of the skills.
For that reason, it is important that parents understand each component of reading. Take some time to think about how you can build up each one of these skills while working on your baby’s reading lessons! Learn this before your child is even born, and you will be ready to help them tackle the text of the world from day one.
How to Effectively Use These Methods
The best way to use these methods is to use them all in conjunction with each other rather than trying to follow them separately. While all of these methods have a lot of merits, pros, and cons of their own, they will never be fully effective without the incorporation of other learning too.
Learning is about more than sitting down for one hour a day and being told something. Instead, it is more about being an interactive part of the larger world around you.
To engage on multiple levels and in multiple different ways, you need to provide different types of stimulation. Using these three methods along with any additional schooling will help your child learn best!
Remember to Have Patience!
We mentioned this in the beginning, but we want to reiterate one more time that you need to have patience when you are figuring out how to teach your baby to read! Babies won’t be reading full books on their own when they are five months old, so it would be silly to expect that kind of result from your efforts.
Instead, keep things light and fun while you are helping your baby start their journey into the world of reading! Don’t get frustrated if they aren’t mimicking you immediately; remember that they are absorbing everything that you say to them in their own way.
Progress isn’t going to be immediate, and you won’t always see exactly what happens as you teach it. Still, trust that your methods are working, and you will see those results in time.
Of course, the techniques shared above aren’t the only ways that you can teach your child to read. There are dozens of methods, but these are the best ones to use from the time that your child is a small baby up until when their cognitive skills develop enough to be able to start doing more formal reading lessons.
The main thing that you need to do is continue to read to them—read to them, read together, or just read. In the end, always keep in mind that the more that your child reads or is read to, the better their skills will develop over time.