In an article called, “How do Kids Learn to Read? What the Science Says”, published in EdWeek in October 2019, there is some very good information on how to help children learn to read. For many years, there have been a lot of theories on how kids learn to read, from strict phonic instruction to Whole Language. Some have even put forth the idea that kids naturally learn from exposure to the written word. However, according to the authors, Sarah Schwartz and Sarah D. Sparks,
“… research has shown that reading is not a natural process and it’s not a guessing game. Written language is a code. Certain combinations of letters predictably represent certain sounds. And for the last few decades, the research has been clear: Teaching young kids how to crack the code—teaching systematic phonics—is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read words.”
This means that a child learns to read when they make the connection between written symbols and the sound that the symbols make. It is important, therefore that the child hear a lot of words so that they develop an auditory vocabulary, a list of words that he or she knows the sound and the meaning of. They learn this by hearing people talk.
So how does a parent begin? By filling a child’s world with words. Talk to them, read to them, sing to them. Do it at the Walmart, in the car, and at home. Educational games on screens is a poor substitute. And your child doesn’t care if what you say makes sense to them or if you sing off-key. They love the sound of your voice.
If you have a small child, I strongly suggest Mother Goose Treasury, a Beautiful Collection of Favorite Nursery Rhymes. Nurse Rhymes are a wonderful way to teach language. They build an auditory vocabulary of words that rhyme as well as the musical qualities of spoken language such as rhythm and pitch. This book is a great read-aloud for your quiet time or just before bed. Start a regular practice of sharing language with your child. You will both benefit from it.


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