Child development begins at conception where a human infant is formed. From the moment of birth, an infant finds that the keys to being a human being revolve around movement, communication and comprehension. These three things, along with social skills which help the child acquire curiosity, will be the key to developing the ability to read with and for meaning.
Many parents are eager to begin teaching reading skills to give the child a jump start for kindergarten, and when the child can say his ABC’s at three, it may seem the child is advanced. It’s true that some children do develop faster and easier than other children do, but the key elements must be balanced and in place before the printed word becomes meaningful in the early childhood mind.
Focus on the following guidelines for pre-reading readiness as your child develops through early childhood.
Gross and Fine Motor Development:
Initially, the ability to use body parts is the focus of development. The child will use arms and legs to turn over, sit, stand and walk. As they learn these skills, their eyes become more curious to the world around them, which in turn, helps to develop language and intellectual ability. Providing your infant and toddler with plenty of space, stimulation and opportunity to use their developing muscles, along with hearing and vision, will also help prepare him for reading readiness.
Use mobiles in the crib to encourage the infant to reach and seek. Infant and toddler toys are designed to help the child develop reasoning skills when they push a button to make a sound or shake a rattle. As their ability to grasp an object increases, they are learning to use their eyes and hands to manipulate their surroundings. When you provide manipulative activities for developing motor ability, you will keep the child on track developmentally.
With this stage and developmental focus, provide soft books with texture to inspire curiosity about books. The child becomes motivated to turn a page in order to find the next shape or texture to touch.
As you read toddler books, take the child’s hand and show them how to point to the words and pictures. This helps to teach the child that the word goes with the what you say with your voice and it also relates to the picture. Soon, the toddler will begin to point to pictures when you ask them, “Where is the dog?” Spoken word comprehension is one of the first steps toward becoming a reader.
Talking to an infant develops the motivation to speak. At three, the child should be able to use simple communication. He should understand simple commands and be able to follow guided instructions. Still, the child’s language and cognitive skills are very immature. You’ll need to guide them through responding to instructions and understanding the meaning of, “in, on, up, down, over, under,” and so on. Language is a complex aspect of human development which goes hand in hand with cognitive development. The two must meet before the child is ready to read.
To prepare your toddler for reading, help to build his vocabulary so that he understands the meaning of the spoken word. Do activities for identifying common objects, including people, places, animals and things.
Your child’s intellectual abilities have been progressing along as they moved and grew to the stage where language became the focus of their attention. Since you’ve read to them frequently, they are beginning to comprehend that the printed word represents something real to them. Soon their curiosity is peeked and they want to know how to read, so they’ll begin to pretend they are reading books you’ve read to them. Sometimes it seems that they are actually reading, but more than likely they have memorized what you’ve said. That’s good and it means they are developing appropriately.
The child learns about shapes, colors and lines and begins to scribble on paper. They understand that manipulating an object has a cause and effect reaction. They’ve learned where a story begins in a book, so they intuitively go from left to right when they pretend read to themselves. At each page, they know the shapes of certain words and begin to memorize them. They understand that the word and it’s shape represents something real to them, so they want to be able to express their own vocabulary through the printed word too.
Their fine motor skills are almost ready and their vocabulary is increasing daily between the ages of two and four. Soon, they begin to understand that each letter in the ABC’s they sing has a sound that goes with it. When this part of motor, language and cognitive ability is present, that’s when he is ready to learn how to read. That’s why the typical age to begin teaching reading is traditionally at five years. Some children are prepared sooner and some later, but if your child is developing within the average to above average range in each aspect of development, they will at least be eager to learn about reading, by the age of three or four.
Study about child development and know where your child is. Doing this will prevent unnecessary frustration and worry. It can also help you know when to intervene and give your child a boost so that he will be ready to read. The most important thing to keep in mind is to make reading fun and pleasurable at all times, especially in early childhood. Pushing a child who isn’t ready can create an adult who hates to read. Learn to trust your education and instincts and be assured that your child will learn to read when he’s ready. The parents enthusiasm and the fun they have reading to their child is the key to developing a human being who loves to read.