Learning to read is a huge achievement for all kids, especially for those who struggle or have a disability. As I discussed in previous blogs, it's extremely important that students learn to read on time because it's so difficult for them to catch up later. You also want to avoid the emotional challenges that often accompany frustrations with early reading.
Helping your child learn to read can be extremely rewarding. I still treasure this note written by my younger daughter when she was still in the early stages of learning to read: Dear Mom, Thack you for teachin me how to read. I qurty much licke it. But let's face it, learning to read and helping your child learn to read can be very challenging. You can probably guess from my daughter's note that she thought it was hard work, but you might be surprised that she learned to read early and quite easily. With just a little bit of instruction, she really took off. In contrast, learning to read was much harder work for my older daughter with dyslexia. She also learned to read on time, but she required much more intensive practice than her sister.
One of the most important things -- probably the most important thing -- you can do to help your child with reading is to listen to them read and help them with words they are learning. Here are some simple tips for helping you do that.
Tip #1 Develop simple routines and HABITS.
Reading with your child, both reading to them and listening to them read, needs to become a habit. Reading with your child does not have to be lengthy, but it does need to happen regularly. Link reading to something you already do regularly -- right after a snack, right after dinner or right after getting ready for bed. If your schedule allows, especially if your child needs a lot of practice, you might want to try a time early in the day before your child is tired. You don't have to be rigid, but the more you stick with a routine the more willing your child will likely be.
Tip #2 Always provide HELP quickly.
Your goal is to gradually increase your child's ability to read independently, but this develops gradually. If your child is struggling with a word for 2-4 seconds, just go ahead and tell them the word or model how to sound it out (if you feel comfortable doing this and if the word is made up of patterns they are learning). You can also encourage your child to look at the parts they already know. After you tell them the word, have them say the word with you and repeat the word. The final step is to always have them start the sentence again. Starting the sentence again is another important habit. Not only do they practice the word again, but they are also better able to comprehend the meaning of the sentence when they start it over.
The basic procedure I just described is:
I: tell them the word or model how to blend the sounds together
We: you and your child say the word or say the sounds together
You: your child says the word (or sounds it out) by themselves
Repeat: start the sentence again
Tip #3 Always keep things HAPPY while reading together.
This is super important. Young children really do want to learn to read, but it is hard work. If they get tired or frustrated, just do more of the reading yourself and they can listen and follow along. Gradually encourage them to do more of the reading. Give them choices about what to read. Check out my video on YouTube with guidance for selecting books. Following Tip #2 by providing help quickly can prevent a lot of frustration. If your child continues to resist reading, seek assistance from an educator and get further assessment.
Remember, build HABITS, HELP quickly, and keep reading time HAPPY.
Tip #4 Take the first step today.
Do not delay. Decide on a time of day that you think may work for you. Start small. With just a few minutes of reading to your child you can begin to establish your routine. If you are not sure what books to read together with your child, take a look at my last blog (How do I know if my Child is Behind in Reading? Should I be Concerned?). In that blog I provided easy-to-follow instructions for deciding where to start reading in our Friends on the Block books. Or, you can use our placement test to decide where to start reading.
What's next? Getting Started: How to Teach Anyone to Read and Have Fun While Doing It!