4 Ways Kids Learn to Read

It is safe to say we all want our children to learn how to read and to learn how to do it well. However, the actual act of learning how to read is sometimes not fully understood. How does reading happen? Check out ways that foster a child’s passion and ability to read.

1. Phonics

Once your child knows the alphabet and knows the sound each letter makes you are good to go on this one. It’s all about sounding it out! Kids are taught to sound out letters as a way of figuring out unfamiliar words. Phonics involves letter combinations with various sounds. Talk to your child about word families, allowing them to make connections between words with similar letter combinations. For example, when learning about the “at” family, kids can learn how to read words like cat, mat, hat, rat, fat, sat and understand that they are connected with the same sound. Sound out words with your child, letting your child see how the word is composed of sounds they already know.

2. Sight Words

When reading we instantly recognize certain words. These are known as sight words. Sight words include some of the most common words kids are likely to encounter. While sight words include words such as “to,” “and,” “the,” “I” and “it,” they can also include common verbs, the words of colors, and objects. Kids are exposed to these words over and over again in various contexts. Pre-schools often label their furniture to help build a sight word vocabulary at a young age. Try labeling your kitchen chairs with the word “chair.” Label a white door with the word “white.” This is the idea behind flashcards. For example, to learn the sight word “give,” children may see a flashcard containing the word and a picture of two people exchanging presents.

3. Writing

Writing helps children make connections between letters and words. It also builds their spelling skills. (Kids who know how to spell a word while writing are more likely to recognize that word while reading). Include writing in fun activities for your child. A fun activity is to try writing with shaving cream or with chalk on the sidewalk.

Writing can also help kids build their reading comprehension skills. When children write their own short stories, they develop an understanding of the traditional story format and have an easier time finding the beginning, middle and end in the stories they read. When they write a response to something they have read, kids are forced to stop and consider what the piece was about and develop a reaction to it, even if it is as simple as “I really enjoyed the story because it had a princess as the main character and I love princesses.”

Photo by Tim Pierce

4. Read often

Practice makes perfect. The more opportunities a child has to read, the better readers they will ultimately become. However, kids do not become better readers by simply reading the same book or same type of book over and over again. Kids must be exposed to multiple types of reading material. Non-fiction books, newspaper captions, cereal boxes, signs, billboards, pamphlets and other types of texts are all reading aides! Point out words you see when taking a road trip. Ask your child to tell you what two words they notice around them at any given moment. As with anything else, make a game out of it!

When helping your child learn to read keep in mind how every brain makes connections differently. If it isn’t in your child’s nature to curl up with a good Thomas the Train book, don’t sweat it! Try an online word game or a puzzle in which you have to put together a word. Utilize technology, sports and anything else your child is interested in to guide their learning. Thankfully there is always a way to turn their interests into teaching opportunities. The brain is wired to learn, so it’s all about finding ways that appeal to the brain’s learning style.

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