The key to teaching reading is to make it FUN! Learning to read doesn’t have to be a dreaded process for you or your child. Start early. Your infant can begin to enjoy picture books as early as six weeks–which is about when their vision sharpens. Keep in mind, books need to be held no more than 10 inches away during the first three months. As soon as each of my babies were a few weeks old, I brought out picture books with simple objects and just one to a page. Before my kids could even sit up, they would become excited at seeing the same books over and over.
In the Tub
One of the best places to teach reading is in the tub. This is the perfect place to keep your child in one place for a while and have some fun learning to read. The best reading tool is a set of foam letters. Yes, that’s right. A cheap set of foam letters. I taught all three of my kids to read during bath time. Start by teaching them to recognize each letter. Once they know the alphabet, play “Hunt for the Letter” by tossing all of them into the tub at once. “Where’s the A?” “Where’s the P?” Have your child put each letter up on the bathroom wall as they find them.
The next step is to start spelling out short words. Cat. Dog. Mom. Dad. Pig. And so on.
Here’s a way to vary the activity and encourage kids to think. Put up the word “Cat.” Then hold up an “M” and a “H.” Now ask your child, “Which letter would turn this word into “Hat?” If your child has some difficulty, then sound out each letter. Do this with a variety of easy words.
Use Books with Pictures for Words
One of my kids’ favorite books was “Picky Nicky.” This book was a bit more advanced for the beginner reader, but the beauty of this book was the pictures which substituted for words. I would read the words and pause at the pictures. This gave my child the opportunity to fill in the word by looking at the picture. It was a great way to involve them in reading longer books and allowing them to participate in the reading.
Cooking + Reading
If you have a kid who won’t sit still long enough to get through a book, another way to teach reading is through cooking. Yup, that’s right, cooking! Use the back of a brownie or cake mix to teach reading. Most box mixes have pictures as well–showing eggs, a measuring cup, etc. Ask questions like, “Can you find the word, ‘Pan?'” ” What temperature should I turn the oven on?” “How many minutes do we need to bake the muffins?” Let your child scan the box to find the answers.
On the Road
One of the first signs my kids learned to read was the “stop” sign. “Oh look, there’s the stop sign,” you say as you come to a stop. “S. T. O. P. Yup, that means stop. So I’ll need to stop here.” Yes, that sounds cheesy when you say it, but hey, you’re teaching your kid to read everything, everywhere you go. As they get older, you ask for help in finding certain exits. “I need to watch for the exit for Lawrence,” you say. “Can you help me find the exit that begins with the letter, L?” Do this within a mile or two at first. For more fun, start out on a trip with a list of words to find and cross them off as you pass them by.
Other Reading Tips:
When your child begins to learn to read and knows a few words from a favorite book, read along by pointing to each word and then stopping in puzzlement at a word that your child knows. Give them a chance to recognize and read the word–kids love to help adults and share what they know!
Alternate sentences when reading familiar books. You read one, your kid reads the next one.
Pick books that fit your child’s language development at the time. If you notice your child has a passion for a certain sport or activity, select books around those topics. Don’t be afraid to read books that are above your child’s reading level. The more words you expose your child to, the better!