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Building blocks for early beginnings: an early literacy series - Your child's success begins with reading

Published:Monday | August 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Neila Ebanks reads a book to children at the Mountain of Books for Children Reading Fair. - FILE

Eleasia Charles, Contributed

Learning to read and write begins at home, long before children go to school. Children begin to learn about spoken language when they hear family members talking, laughing and singing and when they respond to these sounds. The years from birth through age five are a critical time for children's development and learning. Young children learn important skills that can provide them with the foundation for the development of later academic skills. Children who become good readers at an early age are more likely to develop into better learners throughout life.

Parents are the first and most important teachers. If your child is just beginning his journey in reading, it is an exciting and important stage of life and you have a critical role to play. Parents can help children build the critical early skills by participating in their progress at school and practising with them at home.

Children need lots of opportunities to build spoken language by talking and listening, learning about print, books, the sounds of spoken language (phonological awareness) and listening to books being read aloud. Reading aloud to children is the most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading. Through their active participation, children learn new words, learn more about the world, about written language, and they see the connection between spoken and written words. When children enjoy being read to, they will grow to love books and be eager to learn to read them.

Tips for children learning to read

1. Practise the sounds of language by reading books with rhymes; teach children short poems and songs.

2. Help your child hear and say the first sound in words (like "c" in cat), and notice when different words start with the same sound (like "cat" and "can").

3. Help your child hear words that rhyme (like fish, dish, and wish). When reading a familiar rhyme, stop before a rhyming word and ask your child to provide the word.

4. Practise the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and highlighting the letters while reading. Point to signs and labels that have letters, like street signs and foods in the grocery store.

5. Make reading a pleasure. Encourage your child to find the joy in reading. Read to your child in a comfortable place such as your lap or beside you so that she can see and point to the print and pictures. Allow your child to choose the books you read together. Show enthusiasm as you read together. Make it more interesting by talking like the characters, make sound effects and expressions with your face and hands.

6. Let your child pretend to read parts of the book when you read together. Talk about the stories and make connections to things that happen in your own lives.

7. When you read together, ask "what", "when", "where", "why" and "how" questions to help him follow and understand the stories.

8. Practise separating words and putting them together by listening for beginning and ending sounds and putting the separate sounds together. Write notes or make books (like an alphabet book), even if his writing only looks like scribbles or marks.

Eleasia Charles BSc, MSc, MEd, is a licensed early childhood educator/award winning teacher from Washington DC, United States now teaching in Jamaica at the EC Reading Lab. For more tips on how to develop good reading skills email: