Fostering a love of reading helps to create children who are inquisitive, thoughtful, imaginative, and love to learn. But even beyond loving to read, reading and writing are essential skills that everyone needs. Some children can struggle more than others when it comes to literacy and learning to read and spell. It’s important for them all to get the support that they need, whether they find reading and writing easy or more difficult. But learning to read and write doesn’t just start when your child is at school. There are various skills that they begin to learn before then, which set the foundation for their learning when they start school.
Parents and caregivers can help to set the foundation for their children learning to read. Before they learn to recognize or write their own name, there are various ways they can start to get comfortable with letters and words, and you can encourage them to take an interest in reading.
Early Exposure to Books
An early exposure to books can make children interested in reading, and expose them to written letters and words. You can encourage your child’s curiosity in reading by starting from an early age. You can start reading to your child and exploring books long before they are able to read or even talk. Many parents start with books that don’t even have words to get babies used to the experience of spending time with a book. Then you might introduce picture books, which are fun for your baby to look at while you read from them.
Reading aloud to your baby or toddler is fantastic for language development. It gives you opportunities to introduce new words, try out different voices and expressions, and even act out what’s happening. As your child gets older, you can also make it a more interactive experience by asking questions about what’s happening and engaging your child about what you’re reading.
Children will often begin to look at books on their own before they can read, connecting the story that they have heard to the pictures and words on the page. Or they might make up their own stories, which is great for their imagination too.
Foster a Love of Stories and Learning
Reading books is an excellent way to encourage your child to enjoy reading and learning new things. Fostering a love of learning and a sense of curiosity in your child could help to make them more interested in learning to read later. Reading a lot with your child can encourage them to want to read and hear stories, or learn new things. And there are also other ways you can achieve this goal, such as watching educational videos or TV shows or listening to audiobooks.
Make Letters Familiar
Getting started with recognizing letters earlier can help to set the foundation for learning to read later. Children can start to familiarize themselves with letters and different letter sounds long before they start learning to read and write at school. You can learn how to teach letter sounds to your child so that you can get started on the basics. Children can start to become familiar with letters in a variety of ways. You can help them to learn in a tactile way, use visual tools, and make use of fun activities to expose your child to letters and the sounds that go with them.
You can add a tactile, sensory element to learning about letters by creating (or buying) letters for your child to feel. They could be wooden or plastic letters, or you might make them out of Play-Doh or even just use something to create a raised texture on paper. This tactile way of introducing letters can help your child get a feel for the shapes of different letters.
Starting to connect letters to sounds early can be another great way to set the foundations for learning to read. You can connect letters to sounds that your child is familiar with. Use pictures of letters with images of things that your child knows that start with those letters. Choose things your child knows and loves to connect them to letters in a more personal way.
You can use repetition to get your child familiar with particular letters. Consider focusing on one letter for a while, whether it’s a day or a week.
You can also create different activities based on a particular letter, and have lots of fun with learning letters and sounds.
Play Games and Do Activities
Making learning letters and sounds fun is the best way to get started with the basics of reading and writing. There are plenty of fun games and activities that you can use to help your child learn some things that will later make it easier to learn to read and write. There are so many different things that you can do to help develop various skills that will lead to literacy as your child gets older.
You can find plenty of ready-made word games that are fun to play with toddlers and preschoolers. Alternatively, you can make up your own activities if you want to get creative and maybe do some arts and crafts. There are plenty of free resources that you can discover too, including worksheets that you could print out. Try something like an alphabet scavenger to help teach your child letter sounds. Ask them to find things from around your home that begin with particular letters. Start with just one letter or a handful of different letters for younger children so that they can learn at a slower pace.
You could try some arts and crafts activities or maybe create a sensory experience for exploring items starting with or containing different letters and sounds.
Make Use of Technology
With so much technology available today, it would be a shame not to use some of it to help your child prepare for learning to read. In fact, it’s important for children to become familiar with digital letters and typing. Technology can be used in a sensible way, without having your child using a tablet or computer 24/7.
You can find online games for all ages that help children to learn letters and letter sounds. There are free options or you can explore some of the paid apps and websites that are available too. You can also consider downloading some tablet games and apps that are fun to play, and easy for young children to interact with when they have a touch screen. Other options include children’s tech toys that are designed just for small children.
Although you might want to limit screen time for your child, educational games and activities are more engaging than simply sitting and passively watching TV. Your child will be more involved in what they’re doing, and they’ll be using their brain to learn new things. A laptop or tablet can be ideal for allowing your child to play games and do various activities. However, if you don’t have either of these things, your phone can work well too. There are phone apps that are fun to play and are designed to make the most of the smaller screen. Just make sure you change your phone settings and watch over your child to make sure they don’t do anything that they shouldn’t on your device.
You don’t need to wait until your child goes to school to start helping with learning to read. You can start to build the foundational skills for reading and writing much earlier.