Advertising often maps the direction of our lives. As a result, we are coerced in what to wear, what to drive, how to live and what our children should and should not do.
We have seen how children as young as two years are reading fluently, and if you buy a specific programme, your child will excel. But, of course, we want our children to excel, so … we buy the programme and struggle to ask at what age a child should start reading.
Learning to read is a process and a developmental milestone. As each child is different, there is no definite answer.
There are, however, different skills or attributes that can contribute to your child’s learning and love to read.
Children are quick to mimic adult behaviour, so a parent that loves books and reads independently or to their children lays an excellent base for their children to want to read.
Other skills that will assist your child in independent reading are sound oral language acquisition, exposure to pre-emergent reading skills such as letter recognition, discerning between different sounds, books. And the written word.
Parents can help their children acquire pre-emergent reading skills by:
• Take time to read aloud to your child. Let them choose the book to be read.
• Talk to them, ask them questions, discuss the genre of the book you are reading, let them look at the book’s cover and guess the story’s outcome.
• Let them read the story to you. Get excited when your child points out words or letters that they recognize. Incidental learning is fantastic as it produces longer retention and a meaningful application.
• Chat about letter sounds but not their names. The names are from the ABC song, but those names will not help your child read. If, however, parents look at the “Letterland” songs, for example “, Annie Apple, she says a” which teaches them the sound of the letter that helps them break down words when reading—also known as “decoding”.
Starting to read too early or forcing a child to read when they do not have the necessary base skills will lead to parent and child frustration and ultimately make the child hate reading, and they will avoid it at all costs.