Teaching Your Child to Read? 3 Things to (Surprisingly) Stop Doing Now
Teaching your child to read will surely make the What's Hot in 2021 list (along with WFH, elastic waistbands, and tiny houses), since this school year has been the weirdest one EVER. Tons of kids have fallen behind; if your kindergartener or first grader sat dutifully in front of a screen all day over the past 9 months, you’re one of the lucky few. Most children struggled to squeeze in a year's worth of education, and many parents are scrambling to help their kids play catchup.
After all, children learn to read more easily in a rather short window of time. If your 5, 6, or 7-year-old has not advanced their reading skills, you are probably panicking a bit.
Which is why you might be considering teaching your child to read at home. (Kudos, by the way.) In most cases, teaching your child to read is not that difficult; what it takes is patience, consistency, and an easy-to-use program, all of which you have access to, right? No need to feel overwhelmed by what appears to be the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest or programming the remote on your new TV.
Just start. It’s easier than you think. And to make it even easier, here are 3 things NOT to do when teaching your child to read:
1) Don’t Teach the Alphabet. The English language is based on the sounds of the letters, not the names. When your child learns to associate a letter with a name, there is a slight translation he or she must make in order to establish a sound association. Think about it. If your child knows the names of the letters c, a, and t, what good does that do? But if your child knows the sounds of these letters, the obvious next step is to combine the sounds to build the word cat.
If your child already knows the alphabet by heart, no big deal. Simply start (now) referring to the letters only by their sounds—not their names—and your child will catch on.
(Not certain YOU know how to pronounce the sounds correctly? Be sure to choose a program with an audio component.)
2) Don’t Sit Down. I’m guessing you’ve been swamped lately. You’re trying to manage at least one child’s education (possibly more). Maybe you’ve been on the hook for your own job, too. Add a large dollop of guilt for not being able to get everything done, and you’ve got a recipe for paralysis. The idea of scheduling regular lessons sounds good on paper, but can you stick to it?
Yes, you can. The key is to keep lessons to 5 minutes or less, and do them on the go. If you have to arrange pillows, blankets, and ‘lovey' each time you practice, your commitment to teaching your child to read might not be sustainable.
Choose a reading program that has short micro-lessons. Do your lessons in spurts while doing something else: braiding hair, brushing teeth, at the dinner table. But every once and awhile, be sure to pull lovey out of the dryer, put your child in your lap, and take your sweet time.
3) Don’t Brag. Here's the thing. When reading skills are presented in a step-by-step, methodical way, most kids learn to read pretty fast. Like, really fast. In a few weeks, it’s not unusual for non-readers to suddenly be able to sound out simple words. A few weeks later, these kids intuitively figure out that reading is based on a code, and not a particularly hard one. They move even faster, often times branching out on their own and reading everything everywhere—words on menus, street signs, and magazines at the doctor’s office.
In other words, your kid might start looking sort of like a genius. I’m not saying your child ISN’T a genius, but learning to read quickly doesn’t make it so.
Please don’t ask your child to show-off for Aunt Kate! Why set your child up for a lifetime of seeking approval from external sources? Who needs that kind of pressure? All that matters is how your child feels about his or her own learning experience.
Reading is deeply personal. Think of all the stories you’ve read, the notes you’ve written, the poems that have suddenly made your eyes sting. Reading is entwined in almost everything you do; it’s a medium you use to understand and interpret your world.
Let this special time you spend with your child be an intimate bond between the two of you. Besides, once your child becomes an independent reader, everybody will see it for themselves!
Check out our phonics program here.