Encouraging young children to read should start at an age when they are too young to understand what the letters mean. Reading to a baby is all about creating that bonding experience and making looking at books a habit. As a child gets older and it’s time to start more formalized instructions, there are ways to make the process engaging.
Even in the age of technology, most children would rather be doing something with their hands than only watching lessons on a screen. Give preschool and school-age children hands-on reading manipulatives like letter blocks or phonic tiles if they are ready. Helping a child spell a simple word like C-A-T or lining up all the letters of their name will give them a real sense of accomplishment.
There are plenty of easy reading games a parent can do at home. Take a pad of sticky notes and in careful print, write out the simple names of items around the house like chair, door, dog (assuming Fido doesn’t mind). For pre-readers, simply sound out the word slowly and then let your child attach the paper to the correct item. For more advanced readers, mix up the words (put “door” on the chair, for example) and let your child play detective and fix the mistakes.
Just because your little ones aren’t so little doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud to them. Pick two books to read each night. Start with an on-level or picture book that your child can read to you. Then choose a longer but still age-appropriate book and read a chapter a night to your child. When your children hear you read, they learn (among other things) expert phrasing, how to go back and reread if a mistake is made, and that reading is a valued and important skill.
Not every child learns to read on the same schedule, so don’t worry if yours isn’t reading as well as a classmate is. Just keep reading activities part of the family routine, and your child’s skills will steadily advance.