I have been retired from teaching for a few years now but my daughter in law asked me to write a few words about helping a child to learn to read. Oh my goodness I had forgotten how passionately I felt about it. She asked for a paragraph and it turned out like this.
My thoughts about children and reading.
I taught in The Foundation stage all my teaching career. I think my favourite time of day was "Story time!" And my most rewarding moments were listening to children read and see that "lightbulb " moment when a child chose to spend their time in the Book Corner or ask if they could read to me, or see them read to a friend,a teddy or anybody else that would listen.
To know that they had started on a Literacy journey that would enrich the rest of their lives.
The children who came into class with a love of books,poetry,nursery rhymes,in fact any aspect of the written word stood out like shining beacons. They could not " read" per sae but knew that books and stories were special. They knew that story time was a time for quiet enjoyment. They understood that they had to listen to get the magic.
Instilling a love of the written word in its many forms can be the best gift you could give your child. I honestly believe it is the key to every area of development and learning.
Albert Einstein said" if you want your child to be intelligent read them Fairy Stories. If you want your child to be more intelligent read them more Fairy Stories!"
Just change the words Fairy Stories to the wider spectrum. Fiction,non fiction,poetry,nonsense rhymes, comics,newspapers anything that takes their attention.
Show your child that the world can be explored in the most exciting way by books and the written word. Show your child that the questions " how", "why", "when" can be answered by the written word.
Do not worry about teaching your child to read. Read to your new born baby, read to your toddler, read to your school age child, read to your older child. As long as it's pleasurable for you both keep reading to your loved ones for as long as you can.
In this modern technological age there are so many ways of entertaining and educating your children. I am in no way saying these things do not have a place in young children's lives. They obviously do. But, nothing replaces close cuddles, either on the settee or in bed when a little one know he has 100% of your attention. Wrap yourself in a cuddly blanket, read with expression, read with silly voices, read with love. Make it fun, a time of bonding, make it something to look forward to. Make it a part of every day.
Let your child make a little place in your house where he or she can keep their books. A place where they can go and find peace and happiness. In the early stages this might just be looking at pictures. Soon they will be pretending to read. Making up the stories as they see print. Go there sometimes and join in. But always find a time when your child is in a receptive mood. Children love routines and most of all,be prepared to read favourite books a zillion times.
Your child will come to love books and will soon learn the mechanics of reading. He will understand how books work. How to turn pages, how to follow the print from left to right . How a story generally has a beginning a middle and an end. How the unexpected, ridiculous,funny, extraordinary can happen.
My saddest days when teaching was when I looked in a book bag or in a Reading Record Book and realised that no one had spent time with their child and their books for days. The saddest reason given was " But, I don't have time" I wanted to scream... " Make time!!!!" It's the most important thing you can do. Children learn by example. A house with books,and where reading is seen as an essential part of life by all in the family is paramount. Be that model. Read yourself. Visit the library. Write stories with your child about their life so that the written word is seen as something personal,relevant and important.
Don't make reading a test. Don't make it stressful. Never make it a competition with other children. I honestly believe that when a child starts to read independently they should not be expected to read unknown text. When he or she has started school and a book comes home from their teachers read it to your child first. Maybe many times. Make reading a safe thing. A wonderful journey. Never let a child feel it is hard,difficult or something they can fail with. Remember all those times when you read to your child. Those times cuddled on the settee together . Make the school book feel as safe as that. To try, for example to cover the pictures to make sure they can actually read is like sending you on a journey without a map. Every clue should be given, every step supported, every effort praised.
Your child will soon be a reader in every true sense of the word.