Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teaching your child to read

I scared my oldest son away from reading for awhile. I pushed too hard when he was four because I wanted him to read early and prove to the world that he was a genius and I was an amazing mother. Besides overwhelming him, we lost the joy of just reading together. After backing away from any type of reading instruction for over a year, we were able to make progress and read together happily again thanks to the library summer reading program and the Berenstain Bears. He was about six and a half when he realized he had read a book on his own and he was overjoyed. I hope I always have the memory of him jumping up and shouting "I'm reading! I'm starting to read!" I had known he had more skills than he believed and now he was aware too. Within a few months he was reading chapter books. He is now a self-proclaimed book worm.

My second son decided to learn to read shortly after turning five. He made his intent clear to me and I thought I could be helpful and checked out some of the "teach your child to read" books at the library. They were very frustrating to us both. So I quit trying to help and let him pick out some of the easy readers at the library and read them to him if asked. He was reading quite well within a few months.

What can you do to help your child become a successful reader? Does having a lot of books help or reading daily to your children? According to a recent study, the most important factor in kindergartener's success was the letter recognition and sounds work their parents did with them before school started. This long term study used questionnaires and test scores to look at childrens' reading abilities and what parents had done with them. According to their literature, the results were supported by what previous research shows. Reading often to children showed mixed results as a factor in learning to read. Number of books present in the home is not a factor. Parental attitude about child's ability did matter as well.

However, I would submit that in reading daily to your child helps them develop a love for reading and that it is important to keep reading to your children, even after they are able to read themselves. This has been the thesis of Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook for more than two decades.(I recommend you go read his book now if you haven't yet!)

So according to the research, to help your child develop the actual skill of reading independently, the best thing you can do is teach them letters, sounds and sight words before they begin their formal schooling.

So I guess I didn't do too badly because I did help my boys learn the ABC's and sounds when they were young. Mostly by reading ABC books, singing the song and doing puzzles. It was fun!
Malina is currently reading The Hobbit to her older boys and doing ABC puzzles with renewed vigor with her daughter.
Stephenson, Kathy A. , Parrila, Rauno K. , Georgiou, George K. and Kirby, John R.(2008) 'Effects of
Home Literacy, Parents' Beliefs, and Children's Task-Focused Behavior on Emergent Literacy and Word Reading Skills', Scientific Studies of Reading, 12: 1, 24 — 50

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