LIteracy is the most important and timeless gift a child can receive. Teaching a preschooler to read begins in the child’s infancy stage. Always, always, always read to a child! Hearing words and seeing an adult concentrate on the pages sparks interest for the child. Also, if the child can witness an adult interested in reading, their interest will spark as well. A child’s literacy learning process begins in infancy, progresses to toddlerhood, and accelerates in the preschool years.
Infants and toddlers need to hear books, witness words being enjoyed, and discover books for themselves. The interest needs to be generated before the child begins to learn what the letters mean. Plush and cardboard books are best for children of this age, as children need to explore with their mouths as well as their hands. The stiff pages will also help children learn to turn pages one at a time. When an adult reads to a child, the adult models how the child should handle the book. An opportunity for closeness and one-on-one time happens during toddler story time as well.
As toddlers begin to pass this initial literacy stage, they begin to recognize individual letters. After the age of two, children can begin to see letters individually, and they may be able to identify some letter sounds. After the age of three, children should begin to memorize letters, and after four, the letter sounds can be taught. At this stage of literacy, patience is key. Remember every child develops at different levels, and there are children who will not learn to read until after kindergarten starts.
Some children, however, can begin to recognize letter sounds. The child should initiate the interest by drawing their own letters and asking adults to read favorite books. Adults can take words apart, letter by letter, and assist children in hearing the letter sounds. After the child can reiterate every letter sound on their own, words can begin to form. Keeping lessons simple is the best key to success. Start with small three letter words. Remember, for letters with two sounds, only use one sound to learn and keep things consistent. The multiple sounds of letters can be taught after the child has had some reading success. Remember to be patient, and if the child seems to be getting frustrated, STOP! Pushing a child to learn anything leads to decreased desire in the subject, which leads to possible failure.
Keep reading simple, consistent, and move at the child’s chosen pace. Literacy is a gift, not a demand, so adults teaching children to read should be cautious of pushing the child. Every child learns at their own pace. Perhaps all preschoolers are not ready to learn to read. For the children who grasp the concept early, however, every effort to encourage the interest should be made. The best gift a caregiver can give a young child, from infancy forward, is the gift of being read to, for young children who are read to consistently succeed in life over those who have limited access to books.
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