To teach your child to read at home, we must first establish what reading is.
Reading consists of two parts. The first refers to the process of recognizing words. The other is understanding words after recognizing them. This determines the reading ability of children: to learn faster.
Reading is a cognitive process that happens over time. For this reason, the question “When do children learn to read?” doesn’t have a simple answer, since every child has a unique learning pace.
The concept behind a child’s learning pace is literacy development. It is referred to as the path of obtaining literacy through a quality set of instructions. At birth, a baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons. The brain develops faster than any other time between the ages of zero and three.
Because of this, according to Brian Gallagher, if children are not stimulated, if they’re not read to if they’re not engaged, if they’re not asked questions, their brains actually atrophy. These periods are a critical window of opportunity or when to teach kids to read.
Oral language and literacy are tightly connected. A growing body of research has shown that exposure to language in the first year of life influences the brain’s neural circuitry even before infants speak their first words.
The age that children begin or learn to read depends on a variety of factors. There are neurological factors to take into account. There are also socioeconomic factors that could sometimes outweigh all other factors.
How Do Children Learn How to Read? What the Science Says
There are two areas of the brain that are particularly important for language development: Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.
Broca is responsible for the production of speech while Wernicke is responsible for the interpretation and reasoning of speech.
Two prominent theories explain how children learn reading.
The first suggests that similar to learning to speak, reading is a natural process. The second suggests that learning to read requires a series of strategic predictions based on knowledge grasped from one’s context. To learn to read, children should thus be taught these guessing strategies.
So, who are we siding with on this? We’re siding with nearly four decades of scientific research that agrees with the latter. The research has been clear. Reading is not a natural process nor it is a guessing game. Children should be taught to identify letters or combinations of letters and connect those sounds to written letters in order to decipher words.
Learning to read is much tougher than people think. Reading is the product of decoding and comprehension. To learn to read, children must be aware that written spellings systematically represent spoken sounds.
Written language is a code. Teaching young kids how to crack the code—teaching systematic phonics, according to Education Week, is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read words.
In 1997, the U.S. Congress directed that a national panel be convened to review and evaluate research on the effectiveness of various approaches for teaching children to read.
The Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in consultation with the Secretary of Education constituted the National Reading Panel (NRP) composed of 14 individuals.
They conducted two meta-analyses. One on phonemic awareness instruction and another on systematic phonics instruction. The study found that systematic phonics instruction helped children learn to read better than all forms of control group instruction- including the whole language.
How Does Preschool Help Children Instil the Love for Reading?
Before one can read and love reading, one must learn how. And teaching children to read is a complicated task. This is why reading instructions in preschools help children begin their conquest of early literacy.
These literacy development skills include:
- Acquiring knowledge of the alphabetical system
- Learning how to decode new words
- Building a vocabulary captured by the sight
- Developing the hard skills of:
- Remembering meanings
All of which can be taught through an effective system of programmes and teachers.
As you may already know, phonics is the first step to reading. It makes it easy for children to read confidently and read any word they see. At Q-dees, our teachers make phonics instruction more exciting for children. Above just a phonics programme, our Link & Think Reading series let children learn phonics through stories, songs, and actions.
The goal is to get our children to quickly grasp new letter sounds and intelligently read words. Exposing them to new words in an entertaining way promotes better learning.
\While teaching children to read beyond phonics is important, the Link & Think Reading series also expose children to:
- Oral Reading
- Comprehensive Reading
How Do I Know if a Reading Curriculum Is Effective?
There is no tried and proven method that teaches all aspects of literacy development. Preschool curriculums generally attempt to capture as many learning aspects as possible.
However, too much information would only demotivate children and associate reading with negative emotions. On the other hand, too little would bore the child.
So, what is the determining factor?
The answer is teachers.
At Q-dees, before phonics instruction is taught, our teachers will thoroughly assess our children’s specific needs in reading, writing, and vocabulary. Through such assessment, our teachers would then learn how to instruct literacy in a way that enables all students to succeed.
Q-dees offers a Mastery of Language programme. The programme teaches three languages: English, Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia. This often daunts parents with information overload. However, this is why at Q-dees, we start young.
How we engage children is through the following:
- Catchy songs
- Fun rhymes
- Immersive books
- Engaging animations
What Can Parents Do at Home to Help Their Children Learn to Read?
Gopnik, Meltzoff, and K. Kuhl, in their widely-read The Scientist in the Crib, explain just how, and how much, babies and young children know and learn, and how much parents naturally teach them. The authors show that language development begins well before infants begin making their first words. How can I help my child learn to read?
Read to them: The best way to help children become readers is to read to them and make sure to read aloud. Parents can begin to read to babies on the day they are born.
Studies suggest that the most valuable aspects of the read-aloud activity are that children get to learn new words, figure out how letters and sounds relate and how words conceptually relate.
Let them read to you: Have children read the book out loud. Encourage them to ask questions and to talk about what is read.
Oral language is the foundation on which reading is built. There’s no denying that reading aloud to children is tremendously important. But reading and discussing the story is equally crucial. They are part and parcel of the read-aloud activity.
Children are more likely to be exposed to new words and their meanings from reading aloud with adults. Parents who take time to read aloud to their children not only promote emergent literacy and language development but also strengthen parent-child relationships.
The quality of our language that we use and share with our children and the books that we read aloud to them are strongly related to their language development. Jim Trelease, the author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, asserts that;
“We read aloud to children for the same reasons we talk with them: to reassure; entertain; bond; inform; arouse curiosity; and inspire. But reading aloud goes further than conversation when it: a) Conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, b) Creates background knowledge, c) Builds “book” vocabulary, and d) Provides a reading role model.”
Reading is an important skill for children to learn. School is the place of learning where most children learn to read, preschool lays the groundwork for literacy development.
As a matter of fact, developing literacy should begin even before preschool—it should begin at home.
Gough, P. B. (1996). How children learn to read and why they fail. Annals of dyslexia, 46(1), 1-20.
Kuhl, P. K. (2010). Brain mechanisms in early language acquisition. Neuron, 67(5), 713-727.
Rose, J. (2006). Independent review of the teaching of early reading.
Schwartz, S. S. S. D. (2019, October 4). How Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Science Says. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/how-do-kids-learn-to-read-what-the-science-says/2019/10
Why Reading Is Not a Natural Process – Educational Leadership. (1998, March). ASCD. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar98/vol55/num06/Why-Reading-Is-Not-a-Natural-Process.aspx/
Ehri, L. C., Nunes, S. R., Stahl, S. A., & Willows, D. M. (2001). Systematic phonics instruction helps students learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis. Review of educational research, 71(3), 393-447.