Kids and Reading
How do Kids Learn to Read?
Language skills in children start to develop the day they are born. They begin to develop listening and speaking skills through the soft whispers they hear from their father and mother, or the loud screams and happy yells of their siblings. These earliest developments happen in the most casual settings. By about 2 years of age, toddlers begin to combine 2 words to make very simple sentences, and by 2 and a half, they begin to speak in longer sentences. So how about kids learning to read?
Children are gathering critical information about reading and writing from all around them, and one of the most important sources of print exposure for small kids are children's books and children's rhymes. From very early on, most children listen to children's stories and nursery rhymes from their mothers, fathers, and caregivers. As they get a little older, they begin picking up colorful story books, and may even begin to pretend to read themselves. They'll even begin to recognize symbols and signs, such as the large "M" sign for McDonald's. I remember when our daughter was about 2 years old, every time she saw the large yellow "M" sign, she would repeatedly say "fries, fries, fries." Indeed, she loves McD's fries.
As kids language skills develop, they begin to develop print awareness, and begin to identify printed words, letters, and letter sounds. However, reading is not a natural process like speech, and for kids to learn to read, they must receive explicit instructions on how to read. Learning to read is very different from language development, where our language development occurs indirectly, simply through exposure. Through the process of reading to children, they start to gain a print awareness. Small kids enjoy reading aloud with parents or caregivers, and through these reading sessions, they have an excellent opportunity to build their vocabularies, and at the same time, they are having a happy time learning about some of the most basics concepts - about how the squiggles printed on books relates to our spoken language. They quickly learn that these printed text have meaning, and convey a message or tell an interesting story.
Sometimes it may get a little boring for the adult to read the same story book for a child many times over; however, to kids, this is not boring at all. In fact, repeated reading activities helps facilitate comprehension and also helps the young child develop story knowledge and increase vocabulary. While adults may only ever read a book once (rarely more than once), children will gladly read a story book many times, and the sixth time reading it will be just as interesting as the first time reading it. During the early reading aloud sessions, children also gain some important knowledge that are critical for reading success such as reading from left to right, top to bottom, and also front to back. These are not knowledge that we're born with, so it's often helpful if the parents simply explain to the young child the simple process of reading left to right and top to bottom.
Beyond this, some specific instructions and teachings are required to help kids become aware of phonemes and develop phonemic awareness. This is a critical process that will lead to successful reading achievement. Developing phonemic awareness is a critical process where the young child recognizes that letters make different sounds, words are made up of letters, and the sound of these words are made up of the individual sounds of its letters (phonemes). With proper reading instructions and consistent practice, very young children can learn to read. As kids develop phonemic awareness, they will develop superb reading and spelling skills.
As kids learn to read, they should be surrounded in a constructive environment that promotes regular reading activities. They should have easy access to books that interest them and that are at an appropriate reading level for them. When children read text that are at their level, they have better opportunities to understand the meaning of what they are reading. Teaching kids and reading is not a simple process, but it doesn't need to be difficult either. With our simple, step-by-step reading program, children as young as 2 or 3 years old can be taught to read successfully in just 12 weeks.