Teaching Young Readers to Read

When’s the last time you really looked at the words you were reading? Of course you have to look at them to read them, but did you look long enough to really see and feel the shapes of the letters and words? Probably not. And that’s okay. But I came across an interesting press release lately, and since one of the goals of Cardboard Box Adventures is to help parents help kids learn to love reading, I thought I’d share it with everyone. After all, an important step in helping kids learn to love reading is to make it as easy as possible for them to master the technical aspects of reading.

A recent study published in the journal Child Development highlighted the benefits of using certain methods while reading with kids to help them discover relationships between spoken and written words. The study focused on low-income children who were at risk for developing reading problems, but I believe these principles apply to all children who are learning to read.

According to this study, it is very important to draw your child’s attention to the shape of letters and words on the page. So here are a few tips from the study that I thought might be helpful, along with a little commentary from me:

  • Let your child look at the page as you read together. This has more of an impact on their reading skills than simply letting them hear you read aloud.
  • Draw their attention to different letters–have them trace the shapes with their fingers. Maybe if you’re reading an eBook together and can enlarge the text, this could be a great way to help them trace the shapes. They could also trace the shapes in the air with you.
  • Talk about a some different words that start with the letter you just traced, so kids can relate the shape of the letter to other words than the one on the page.
  • Point out the shapes of different words. Maybe you can have your child look for other examples of the same word on the page if possible.
  • Make sure your children know about the directionality of the type on the page. Many parents do this automatically as either they or their children or both together move their fingers from left to right across the page as they read. You can also ask your child where you are supposed to start reading each time you get to a new page and let them show you. Before you start reading that page, you can also ask them where you will stop reading on that page.

I have a feeling we do some of these things without even thinking about them as we read with our children. But I think it’s great news that some of these things we do instinctively have been proven to have a definite benefit to helping kids learn to read. So keep up the good work!