The Best Strategies of Teaching Reading to Small Children
One of the most important skills one must acquire to be successful in life is reading, and it's probably not far fetched to say that reading is THE most important skill we need to master. After all, almost everything we do in life involves reading one way or another. Despite this, it's a shame that in the developed western nations, illiteracy and reading problems are common place, and affects children as much as it affects adults. Over 30 million Americans are considered functionally illiterate, and an incredible 67% of all grade 4 students can't read at a proficient level - as defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Why are we such poor readers? Perhaps the wrong strategies of teaching reading are being employed? Maybe some teachers are ill-prepared to teach proper reading strategies and techniques? Perhaps not enough emphasis is placed on learning to read at an early age? Or perhaps parents put too much faith and reliance on the education system? It's probably a combination of all these different factors that leads to a large population of poor readers.
The Best Strategy for Teaching Reading is to start young!
How young you ask? As soon as your child is able to speak clearly, and this is typically around 2 to 3 years of age. "Gosh, you must be joking," I can hear you thinking to yourself. A 2 year old has just learned to speak, how can you possibly teach a small toddler like that to read? I'm here to tell you that you CAN teach children as young as 2 and 3 years old to read, and in fact, read so well that any adult will be astounded. Below are 2 short video clips showing two small toddlers reading.
I have taught all of my own kids to read before they turned 3 years old. I have also had the fortunate experience of helping thousands of other parents teach their children to read at very young ages, many as young as 2 years old. When I speak of reading, I don't mean silly word shape memorization that you see so often on youtube videos and other whole language programs where the child has simply memorized shapes without any real understanding of the fundamental basics of reading - of what makes a word sound like a word... When I speak of reading in small children, I speak of a real understanding and grasp on the concept of decoding printed text - a real display of phonetic reading. This is the essential foundation of teaching a fast and fluent reader.
How do you help a child develop fluency in reading? I can tell you right now that this is definitely not by the whole language method. The look and say strategy of reading is ineffective and produces poor results, and is probably a contributing factor to the high levels of illiteracy in society. With that in mind, let's start with...
3 Teaching Reading Strategies to Avoid
1) Do not think for one minute, that using some DVD program with words flashing on the tv screen will teach your child to read. I mean, really, if you think that a black box can do the job of a loving parent, then you probably shouldn't be on our site, because that is one thing we're adamantly against. As parents, we simply CANNOT remove ourselves from the learning to read process of our children! YOU NEED to be involved every step of the way. Avoid tv and computer programs that claim to teach children to read by sitting your child in front of the TV or computer screen.
2) While phonics is a great way to teach children to read, memorizing phonics rules is not an effective strategy in teaching reading - especially for small toddlers. Can you really expect a 2 or 3 year old to learn to read by learning and memorizing phonics rules? Absolutely not... You'd be lucky to make any progress with this approach. To be able to teach even very young kids to read, the program needs to be extremely simple.
3) Avoid whole language programs. It is an extremely poor teaching method that produces poor results. After a review of 1,960 clinical studies, the National Reading Panel stated that: "teaching phonics and phonemic awareness produces better reading results than whole language programs.“ It's beyond me why anyone would think that this approach is an effective strategy to teach reading.
So what works? What is an effective strategy to teach reading?
Five key words: "Phonemic Awareness and Synthetic Phonics". Phonemic Awareness (PA) is absolutely ESSENTIAL for children, or anyone, to develop fast and fluent reading skills. PA is a very specific skill that is defined by the ability to hear, identify, and work with the smallest units of sound. While reading should be taught after a child is able to speak clearly, phonemic awareness skills can be developed VERY early on, long before a child is able to speak clearly. With the extensive experience we had with our first child, and working with many other parents, we had helped our 2nd child develop phonemic awareness skills before he was even 2 years old. This created a solid foundation and setup for a smooth path through which we had taught him to read well before he turned 3 years old. By the way, by the time our first child was 4 years old, she was reading at a grade 3 level.
Learning to read early does wonders for the brain's development and sets the stage for future success. If you'd like to get a (huge) head start for your child, then start teaching your child to read today.