Reading and writing is a skill that is important for a person’s ability to learn. Learning and developing reading and writing skills is something everyone should continue to practice starting as infants through adulthood.
Parents and family are the most important teacher in a child’s life. You can do many things now to boost your child’s learning and ability to learn for years to come.
Here are several ways to support your child’s ability to read and write at a young age:
Talking to and with your child.
The more words children have, and the more experience with language, the easier it is for children to learn to read. The best way to help your children learn many words is to talk to them about every day activities.
- At the grocery store, make a list, talk about it with your child; do a scavenger hunt to see who can find the items on the list.
- While cooking talk to your child about what you are doing, and talk about what happens to the food. For example, you make scrambled eggs, have your child describe the eggs before and after they are cooked. What happened? Why do they think that happened?
- Tell stories. You don’t need to be an amazing storyteller. Your child will think your stories are great, regardless of what it is about. Tell a real story about when you were a child, or a story about a funny thing at work.
Make and find patterns in the world.
Words, sentences, and paragraphs in the English language are patterns. When we play with patterns, both visually and auditorily, we get familiar with seeing them in our world. Some ways to explore patterns:
- Make patterns with toys or every day objects. Do you have toy animals at your house? Make a pattern of dog, cow, dog, cow. What about beans or pasta, make different patterns with the different types. After you make simple patterns, try complex patterns and challenge your child to finish the pattern.
- Find patterns in the world. You would be surprised at how many patterns you can find when you start looking. Are the house colors a pattern? What about the animals in that field?
- Find patterns in the words we speak? By patterns I mean rhyming words. Dog/fog, and cat/hat. How many words can you think of that rhyme with cow?
Give your child more experiences.
Now, I don’t mean taking your child to see the world. World travel is great if you can do it, but most of us are unable to afford distant travel. Instead give your child opportunities to experience and hear the words for many different things.
- Go for a hike, how many different tress/plants can you find? Can you describe the different trees? How do you know they are different? You might only make it 200 yards with a young child, but think of what you can see in that distance.
- Go to the grocery store. There are so many things to see an do at the grocery store!
- Go to your local library. I think it goes without saying all of the cool things you can do to gain language at the library!
- Go to a friend’s house. Everyone’s house is different with different experiences.
Play with sound.
Ok, you may think I am crazy here, but hear me out. When a child have experience with different sounds that make words, even nonsense words, they are able to understand the sounds of our language. This means when a child is learning to read, or gaining new words/spelling they have more experience with the sounds the letters make. Playing with sound is easier than you would think. Here are just a few ideas:
- Music! Songs play with sounds is so many cool ways. Raffi is one of my favorite children’s songs artists, but there are so many.
- Rhyming words! Have children come up with words that rhyme with their name, favorite animal, etc.
- Make up a language. No seriously! Preschool age and up love to create nonsense words and assign them meaning. This is a great way to play with sounds!
What not to do!
Although I like to focus on what to do, it is important to highlight what does not work. Language and reading through media. Videos, games on the ipad/phone, all of the above. Children learn through human interactions. Research shows that learning through apps, flash cards, and videos may seem to work, but they don’t actually support children’s learning over time. In fact, research shows that media use by children contributes to mental health issues later in life.
If you want to give your child an app or video, do the above activities with your child at a rate of 5 human interactions to one computer/media interaction.
Leave your ideas in the comments for how to boost your child’s reading and writing.