Learning to read is no easy feat and it takes a lot of practice and patience. Snuggling up with a bedtime story is always good fun, but reading can be hands-on and active too. Children learn through experience, so combining reading with play time is a good thing! Here are five easy steps that you can follow to help your child in the early stages of learning to read:
1) Spark their imagination with interactive books
The best way to get a toddler interested in any book is to pick out something which really stands out. Toddlers love pop-out books that are surprising, textured books with materials that they can rub their hands over, musical books and oversized picture books. While you read, let your toddler explore and play with the pages. It might seem like they're not paying attention, but they're still listening to the sounds you're making and enjoying spending time with you while reading.
2) Read it again, and again, and again
Reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears over and over again might be driving you a little mad, but you can bet that your toddler is loving it. Children learn through repetition, so it's important that you keep reading the same books to your child frequently. Eventually the aim is for your child to be able to repeat words and phrases after you, and feeling confident about doing so. Make this into a game, and make intentional mistakes so that they can call you up on it, or get them to say little bits of the story that they already know. They'll be shouting “that's my porridge!” in no time.
3) Guess what's next...
Guessing games are a good way to introduce very basic reading and listening comprehension skills. Encourage your toddler to guess what's coming next. Really little ones won't be able to answer, but asking them questions keeps them involved and gets them excited. As they start to pick up more words and become familiar with the story, they'll be desperate to tell you what's going to happen next!
4) Chomp, huff and grrrr
Chomp like the hungry caterpillar, huff and puff like the wolf in The Three Little Pigs, and roar like the Gruffalo. Use sounds and put on different voices for different characters to get your toddler really engaged with the story. Making easy sounds is a good way to start, and you can make it into a game by seeing if your little one can mimic the sounds. If you're not the best at voices, don't worry – it's the effort that counts, and there are some great audio books that can help to add variety to story time too.
5) Bring the story to life
Don't be afraid to bring the story to life with role play games! If your toddler has a favourite scene, get dressed up together and act it out. Maybe they'll love the idea of being a princess in a tower like Rapunzel, or perhaps they want to go outside on a teddy bears' picnic. Try telling stories while you're enjoying other activities – you could recite Goldilocks and the Three Bears while sitting down for breakfast, or march through the woods singing hi-ho like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Reading doesn't need to be confined to the pages of the book after all.
There's no magic formula when it comes to helping your child learn to read, but combining play time with reading time along is an excellent way to support language development. Try different activities with your children and try them out at different ages as well. Children all learn differently, and the best thing you can do if make sure that your child is having fun while they're learning!
Article supplied by Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the school curriculum.
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