Teaching Reading skills from an early age
Reading is daunting for everyone and it sure is a difficult skill to develop if it isn’t done properly. Researches now show that even babies could be taught to read or at least are responsive to letters in the same way as they are responsive to easy math calculations. Even if those discoveries are a huge step for cognitive theories there are questions that teachers and parents should debate about: The first one is “How young is too young?” And the second one is “How do we make it efficient?”
1. What is Reading at an early age?
We don’t expect young children to read novels of course. When we talk about Reading at an early age we mean the process of decoding. In other words, the ability of putting sounds of letters together to form syllables or words. Many parents and teachers have concerns about the process of decoding from an early age arguing that it can be detrimental to the self-development of children as it puts pressure on them. This is surely something to take into account. As a reminder, some countries such as Finland introduce formal reading at the age of 7. But does it harm to expose younger children from the age of 4 or 5 to the letters of the alphabet and their sounds? Well, experts say it can be a good thing if done in a sensitive way and if done progressively without pressure.
2. Reading: Make it natural
Forcing kids into Reading is counterproductive. Many parents would use flashcards and drilling to get kids used to the sounds of letters or words but the best way to actually get a kid to read is to make it sound natural. There is nothing as powerful as natural communication and bedtime stories to instill curiosity into kids and to get them into Reading. Reading has to be something natural. Kids have to be surrounded by books from an early age. Their environment is what is going to help them become natural readers. The way we learn a language is similar in many ways to the way we learn how to read: We want to communicate, we want to join our peers, we want to share feelings and emotions. Playing with children and talking WITH them rather than TO them is critical to successfully teach Reading.
3. Storytelling: a good way to get into Reading
The best way to motivate children about Reading is to make it a pleasurable moment for yourself as a parent or as a teacher. It is true that no one becomes a storyteller without practice but I can guarantee you that you’ll have great fun in the process and that your children will ask for more. When Reading, read with them, show them the pictures, get them involved, use lots of gestures and sounds, use different intonation, exaggerate. Choose books that are adapted to their age but also to their interests. You will soon find out that children usually prefer funny stories that they can relate to.
4. Reading make it real
Children don’t want to be talked to as babies or toddlers, so consider them as what they are: curious learners that are ready to discover the world that surrounds them. In other words use words that surrounds them. Young children are able to discriminate sounds and phonemes. Instead of focusing on a global approach or syllabic approach that makes no real sense to them you can introduce them to the letter of the alphabet and to their sounds from an early point. Make it fun as well. Write small little words from everyday life, have them to decode the words and have them to label the objects in the room. They’ll love it and they’ll ask for more. Why? Because decoding for kids is like discovering a secret. They feel so proud of themselves when they succeed that they won’t stop. So, how young is too young for reading? There is no age. Everyone is different, but what makes the real difference is the way you introduce them to this fantastic communication tool.