advice

baby bookworms:
how children learn to read

Reading is a skill that we use every day as adults, and it's one of the most important things your child will ever learn. Parents play a huge role in teaching this life skill: here's what you should know.

fun reading activities for children

how do children learn to read?

There are two main ways, and most children learn through a combination of both. The first is the 'look and say' method, which is where they start to recognise the shape of words by seeing and saying them over and over again. The other is phonics, which involves breaking down words into the sounds the individual letters make, for example 'chair' can be broken down into 'ch', 'ay', 'rrr'.

when do children learn to read?

Every child is different. Some little bookworms take to reading while in preschool, while others show no interest until they're much older. There's no set answer, but as a guideline most children can't read until they're about five or six. The best thing to do is read to them from an early age and see if they show interest in what you're doing. Learning to read is a slow process and can take years, so it's important to take it fairly easy and not force anything, as this could make your child lose interest altogether.

how can I encourage my child to read?

Make it fun – if they think reading is a chore they'll immediately want to get out of it. You can add the fun factor by choosing stories that hold their interest, doing silly voices, playing games and showing them the colourful pictures. Children love painting and drawing, so ask them to draw their favourite characters from the stories. When you read to them, run your finger along the page so that they start to make a connection between the weird-looking words and the exciting story. They'll want to know how to read for themselves.

what kind of books should I choose?

Reading to your child from an early age will get them used to the idea of books and interested in stories. Babies love looking at colourful board books from when they're about six months old, while one to two year olds really like repetitive books with lots of rhymes. At three to four years old, your toddler will enjoy books with simple stories and lots of lovely illustrations. By this age they should be able to recognise the letters of their name – a great base for learning to read.

what are some easy reading games?

There are loads of games you could play to help get your little one reading. Use wall charts with pictures and words or start labelling bits and bobs around your house to get them making the link between a word and the object. You could also write out words in dots and ask your child to join them up to make the letters. Give them some colourful pens and encourage them to write their name on any mini-masterpieces they create. Remember to give your child loads of praise for all their hard work!