Literacy in the Early Years: Strategies for Teaching Young Children to Read

Date :
February 28, 2019

teaching young children to read

Reading is one of those essential life skills that all kids need to master – but as a parent, how do you go about teaching young children to read? At what age should you start trying to teach them early literacy skills that can be the basis of lifelong reading skills? And, better yet, how do you encourage your child to become a lifelong reader? Here at May Gibbs, we’ve got a few tried and true strategies to help you get your child on the way to becoming a fantastic little reader. They’ll be reading May Gibbs’ books to you in no time!

How early is too early?

There’s no such thing as too early when it comes to reading to your children – but teaching them to read is a different matter! On average, you can start teaching basic literacy skills when they’re toddlers, and they should be on their way to reading by about age 5 or 6.

What can I do to help my child learn basic reading skills?

There’s no magic formula to reading, and every child learns in different ways and at their own pace. We have found there are a few simple things parents can do when children are small that can be very beneficial when it comes to learning to read. Check them out!

Read aloud to your child every day. Ideally, 3 or 4 short books or picture books should be enough to foster good literacy skills, but this depends on the child. Remember, your child will be able to listen to more advanced stories, while the ones you can encourage them to read with you should be much simpler. Don’t go for Snugglepot and Cuddlepie just yet. Try to take advantage of your local library’s story time sessions, as you’ll gain extra ideas and insight into early literacy.

Ask your child questions about the book before, during and after you read to them. This encourages reading comprehension. The whole point of reading is understanding what the book is about and interacting with it on an emotional and intellectual level, and this is the first step to learning those skills.

Be a great reading role model and let your child see you reading for pleasure. Reading is, after all, an immensely pleasurable activity, and if your child sees how much you enjoy it, he or she is going to want to do it, too. You’re encouraging life-long habits as well.

Look out for words or letters while out and about, and show these to your child. Have their name printed in big letters in their bedroom. Encourage them to spot familiar letters, whether it’s the first letter of their name or their sibling’s name, or even the name of the beloved family pet. They’ll soon be jumping in whenever they see that letter or word. You’ll have attached real meaning and significance to those words and the new ones they discover.

We have five senses, so make sure you incorporate as many of them as possible! Obviously, sight and sound are incredibly important when developing literacy and reading skills, but you can also encourage your child to use their fine motor skills and create alphabet-related crafts. Ask them to find pictures all relating to particular letters, or draw pictures. Encourage your little one to sing songs that incorporate rhymes or word games. Your local library will be incredibly helpful in this area.

Teach your child about rhyming words, and work on letter sounds and manipulating them within words. Rhyming enables children to see patterns in reading, by grouping sets of letters and sounds together within a word. Once they recognise a particular word, for example ‘mop,’ they’ll quickly recognise similar words like top, pop and hop, because only one letter changes.

Encourage your child to sound out short words. Once your child knows the sounds that each letter makes, they’re ready to start putting words together. When looking at the word ‘rat,’ for example, encourage your child to sound out each letter before putting them together to create the whole word.

Practise memorising a few sight words every day. Sight words are the words most common in the English language, and so encouraging your child to memorise what these look and sound like, as well as what they mean, makes it so much easier for them to learn how to read.

Most of all, HAVE FUN! Teaching young children to read should never feel like a chore, so if you or your little one are becoming frustrated, take a break. Try to make it a more organic experience. Don’t rush – reading takes time and practise, and every child comes to it in their own time.

For more insights into early literacy or tips on encouraging your children to read, check out our News page!