Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to teach your child to read.

by Umm Abdurahman

Have you ever seen on one of these YouTube videos a child reading fluently at age 3 or 4? Chances are he’s not a prodigy or a genius, his parents just put in the effort.  It’s not impossible, and you can do it too.   Finding the right curriculum is essential, and may take a lot of time, while mistakes through trial and error can be discouraging, we would like to present you with our system which we used for teaching our son to read.

1.   Learning the Alphabet

When to start?  If your child can speak, mimic what you say, and differentiate between three letters, then he/she should be ready to start. There are many different mediums you can use to teach your child the alphabet, from songs, books, toys, and even videos, but we prefer to keep it simple.   To begin with have your child listen to the alphabet song several times, and encourage him/her to sing along.  Once you see he/she starts to recall some of the letters, you can continue on to using flash cards. We used a boxed set of thick cards with the letters on them, any set will do, but having something durable can be beneficial. We started with one letter per day.  I would show each letter to my son, pronounce it for him and ask him to repeat after me.  Then I would check for understanding by asking him “what’s this?”, while pointing at the card.   I would review the letters with my son daily as they accumulated in a similar manner.  Another fun way to review was by laying down an array of letters on the floor and I would call out a letter and he would have to bring it to me. If one letter a day became too easy for your child, slowly increase to two or three until you’ve completed the alphabet.  Don’t forget to celebrate each correct answer with lots of praise and applause

2.       Phonics

Once your child knows his alphabet and can recognize each letter, you need to teach him the sounds that each letter makes. In the beginning we tried a popular program called Starfall.  It worked well at first, but over time I found the pictures and music to be too distracting for my son and we went back to using flash cards. You can teach your child using flashcards in the same manner you taught the alphabet, this time teaching the sounds of each letter.   I would show him a card and ask him what letter it was, and then tell him the sound it makes; ‘’the A says aaa’’.  Occasionally I would allow him to review through Starfall, but no longer relied on it as our primary source. In my opinion I believe it is much better as a supplement for review.

3.       Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons

I had heard of the book but put off trying it, however when I finally caved in and attempted the book, I was kicking myself, wishing I had tried it sooner. It really is so simple that anyone can use it. The author goes so far as to provide the parent with a script of what the parent should say, and it is written clearly in red as to stand out from the rest of the text. The section for the child to read is in black, but in much larger print, making it easy for the child to see.  Although this book is designed to start a child from scratch, we found that because we covered the letter sounds before starting the book, it allowed our son to advance much more quickly.  In about 4 lessons my son understood the concept of blending and began to read. I was amazed at how simple and effective the author’s methods were. He introduces letters slowly and teaches the sounds before teaching the name of the letter. Then when the child has learnt just two or three letter sounds, he/she is taught how to blend them together. Once the child has learned a few more sounds he/she begins to read words, then sentences, then paragraphs as he/she learns more sounds. The author incorporates word games and rhyming which are effective and fun. Occasionally your child may feel bored, and that’s normal. Try changing things around, have your child be the teacher, you be the student.  You can also use supplemental reading material, and have your child read to you beginner level story books. 

The books strengths:

1.  Teaches the child to read from left to right in a way that was easy.

2.  Encourages the child to use their pointer finger as they read, through  the use of arrows under words which the child follows.

3.  Uses simple easy word games to get across the concept of blending.

4.  The book is not overburdened with images and color which can distract your child.

5.  Tests reading for comprehension at the end of every story, by giving you questions to ask your child.

6.  The progression of the stories was very suitable.

What you can skip:

1.  After several lessons you can avoid reading the parental script in red once you’ve got the point.

2.  You can leave out the writing section at the end of each lesson, especially if like our son, your child’s hand coordination is poor, or if you just want to focus on reading.

3.  The author requests you read each story twice, we read it once, and it didn’t harm our son’s progress.

4.  As you progress you can opt out of the keywords at the beginning of each story or select only those you feel will be difficult for your child.

I would like to add that no reading program is perfect, and you should always have supplemental materials on hand.   Also it is essential that throughout any program you choose to use that you continue reading to your child on a daily basis.  These are just some of the things that we tried which we felt were most successful.  We hope you can benefit from them, and we would love to know about your experiences as well.