What Allows Children to Master the Ability to Read?
Before entering middle school, every child should have mastered at least the basics of learning how to read. There is no one correct path of learning how to read, as children have various learning styles and develop at different paces. There are, however, a few things that enable children to learn how to read.
This article explains how learning to read isn’t only a matter of practicing the alphabet at school, and what parents can do to enable better learning. For more information, check out Reading Head Start. So are you ready to take a look at what allows children to master the ability to read? Then keep on reading!
Learning in Stages
To best help children learn how to read, it is important that you understand that it is a lengthy and ongoing process that starts as young as infancy and continues for many years. There are different milestones that mark the developmental stages of reading, and not all of them include reading out loud to the class. Children first learn to make sounds, then to attach meaning to those sounds. This is their first awareness of words. Then they learn to connect spoken words and their meanings to written words.
They learn the alphabet and how to combine letters to form different sounds. Finally, they learn how letter combinations make words that have meaning and form sentences and paragraphs. Reading confidence and fluidity increases throughout the stages, and end in the final stage of being an expert reader, which typically happens by age 16 years and older. So while children do start the reading learning process when they are in infancy, do not expect your child to know how to read by the time they are two, or four, or even eight. It is a long process with many steps and it takes time.
Learning to make sounds and verbally communicate is one of the earliest stages of developing literacy. Children learn to speak before they learn to read, but before they can even talk they babble and mimic noises they hear. Talking to your child, even when they are just an infant and can’t talk back yet, helps them learn to listen and process sounds, which they will eventually recognize as words. Communicating verbally with your child at an early age is a great start to helping them with their reading skills.
Once children start learning how to control the sounds they make, they start to attach meaning to words. This is important for reading still even at the verbal level because it allows children to start learning new words and expanding their vocabulary. Knowing a lot of words and what they mean before being introduced to printed material is helpful, because then the child doesn’t have to learn written language and what the words mean and sound like all at the same time.
Recognizing that written words have meaning is important as well, such as connecting turning the pages in a book to a new part of the story or noticing that there are words on street signs and food labels. As adults, we may not notice that we are surrounded by words in our everyday lives. We are dependent on them, like with road signs and menus. As children start to ascribe significance to written words, they will notice all the words around them and be curious about what they mean.
One of the most important things adults should understand about child development is that children learn more from playing rather than a strictly regimented learning environment. Children can learn new words from playing with other children, playing computer games, watching movies, and so much more. Laboring over flashcards isn’t the only or even the best way for children to learn how to read. Incorporating learning into playtime, such as using magnetic letters or spelling games, is a great way to support your child in developing their reading skills.
Having a Parent Read Aloud to Them
Reading to or with your child is one of the best ways to support growing their literacy skills. Make reading time a fun tradition by building it into your bedtime routine. Although screens can be helpful for learning, eliminating them at bedtime and switching to printed books helps children calm down and sleep better through the night, and keeps them engaged with print.
Reading along with your child gives you the opportunity to explain the meanings of new words. Reading out loud to your child helps them understand the connection between sounds and the words on the page, as well as the meanings behind written words. Touch the words with your finger as you go to show your child which word you are reading as you say it. You can even combine reading time with playtime by playing reading games. For example, you could have your child point to everything on a page that starts with a particular letter.
Just as adult learners are advised to hand write notes for better memorization instead of typing, writing helps new readers better learn how to recognize letters and words. Children usually learn handwriting, spelling, and the fundamentals of reading around the same time in school because they are complementary skills. Practicing handwriting, creative writing activities, and even simple letter games like hangman are all connected to learning how to read.
Children learn how to read in many ways, not all of which are through practicing at school or through doing homework. Encourage your child to read by using the healthy methods of learning above, as these really can boost your child’s literacy skills. They are easy to implement and your child will not feel overwhelmed by using these fun and engaging methods to master the ability to read.
Plus, if you are looking for more information on how children learn to read, check out the Reading Head Start site for awesome tips and tricks to get your child enthused.