How Early Should You Start Teaching Kids To Read?

Learning to read is an important skill that every child needs to develop. But at what point should you start teaching kids to read? There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this. Some people think you should start teaching kids as early as 4. Others think that kids aren’t truly ready until they’re 6 or 7.

The truth is that it can vary depending on the development of your individual child and their motivation to read. Some kids want to start reading at 4 and are able to grasp it quite quickly. Others only start getting it until they are 6 or 7 and are still able to catch up with classmates given the right amount of encouragement. What’s important is that you follow the right steps so that you’re not diving straight into the deep end. This post explains more as to what these steps are and when you can start to progress to the next step.

Reading to your kids

Kids are more likely to develop a desire to read early if they are frequently exposed to books when they are young. Reading time can become an activity that is familiar. By making it fun - such as putting on silly voices and letting them choose books - you can also create a positive association with reading.

But just when should you start reading to your kids? Some studies suggest as early as pregnancy. Science shows that reading to kids in the womb can help with development of areas of the brain associated with language and reading.

Of course, if it’s too late for that, you can still begin reading to kids as babies. They may not be able to follow the story and may not have the patience to get through a whole book, however reading to them will start to build a curiosity in books - especially ones with pictures, pop-ups and touch-and-feel elements.

Many kids will start to enjoy being read to once they reach 2 or 3 and may even ask to be read certain books. Nurture their passion for reading by taking them shopping for new books and by planning reading time each day.

Learning the alphabet

A key part of learning to read is learning all the letters. Kids will often start to learn the names of some letters at 2 or 3, however, most kids won’t be able to identify the entire alphabet until they are 4 or 5.

How can you help kids learn the alphabet? Buying letter shape puzzles and other alphabet-oriented toys (especially electronic toys that vocalise each letter) is one effective way to familiarise kids with letters. You can also teach them the alphabet song as early as 3. Once kids reach 4, you could also start pointing out letters and encouraging your child to tell you what they are. Daycare facilities will often be able to help when teaching the alphabet.

Writing their name

Reading and writing are two skills that are best learnt together. Writing can help kids to learn to read in a more hands-on way - as kids write each letter, they become more familiar with the shape and can then more easily identify it when they read it.

A good place to start when teaching kids to write is teaching them to write their name. Most kids learn to do this when they are 4. If your child has a long name, you may want to start by teaching them a nickname (i.e. ‘alex’ instead of ‘alexander’). That said, the longer their name, the more letters they will become familiar with, and they may then be able to apply these letters to other words.

Learning phonetics

Learning the alphabet is all well and good, but kids also need to learn how each letter sounds when applied to a word. This is something many kids start to learn at 5 when they go to school, but you can try to teach it earlier.

Start by teaching how each letter sounds on its own and then show them words that use that sound (such as the ‘h’ sound in ‘house’). After kids have mastered this, you can then move onto more complex sounds (i.e. double-letter sounds like ‘ea’ and ‘oo’). Use the most basic English books you can to help kids learn these sounds - you don’t want to confuse kids early with words like ‘through’.

Reading books

Once you’ve covered all of these bases, you can start giving kids books to read. Start with simple books and get kids to read them out aloud to you - picking up on any errors.

Silent reading skills typically don’t develop until between 6 and 8. It’s better to encourage kids to read aloud at first so that you can identify mistakes they may be making.

Let your kids choose books that they want to read. You can also challenge them to read you books that you used to read to them frequently. They may already remember some of the words and sentences, which could make it easier.

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