Books offer a gateway to countless possibilities. When a child learns to read, it opens up a new world of wonders for them. Children learn this essential skill at an early age. However, teaching a child to read is not easy and requires time and patience. A child needs to develop a few other skills and have a good retentive memory to read even simple text.
You probably are eager to let your child start reading and want to know when children learn to read. In this post, we tell you the age by which a child starts to read, how to help a child start reading, and the benefits that reading offers to a child.
At What Age Do Children Learn To Read?
Every child develops reading skills at their own pace. As per the model established by education theorist Jeanne Chall, most children go through the following stages of reading development (1)
Stage 0 – Pre-reading: From six months to six years of age, children are mostly involved in “pseudo-reading,” meaning they only pretend to read by holding a book in their hands. They usually imitate their parents or teachers who have previously read to them from a book. By age six, they generally understand thousands of words they hear but can only read a few of them.
Stage 1 – Initial reading and decoding: When the child is between six and seven years of age, they can recognize the relationship between written and spoken words and between letters and sounds. They start to recognize simple words and are capable of sounding out one-syllable words. They especially develop this skill when guided directly by an adult. Regular practice helps them understand over 4,000 words they hear and read up to 600 different words.
Stage 2 – Confirmation and fluency: Between seven and eight years of age, children learn to read simple stories that they have heard before. They do this by implementing decoding skills, sight vocabulary, and context clues. From this point, children can further develop their reading skills by listening to others read and reading more themselves. At the end of this stage, they understand about 9,000 words they have heard and learn to read about 3,000 words.
Stage 3 – Reading for learning the new: Between nine and 13 years, children learn to read complex text to gain new knowledge, new ideas, and new experiences. At the start of this stage, children tend to learn more through listening comprehension, and by the end of this stage, they are able to learn through both listening and reading.
Although most children might follow the pattern mentioned above while learning to read, research shows that reading to children regualrly by the age of four to five years has a positive impact on their reading and cognitive skills later in life (2).
Can Children Have Trouble Reading?
Reading can be an immensely challenging activity for some children, and this has nothing to do with their level of intelligence. Although some children may have certain learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (3), which can make them learn things at a relatively slower pace, in many cases, they need more time and extra support to start reading.
Also, if children are not instructed or taught well, they will find it difficult to grasp anything you try to teach them later in life.
Guiding A Child To Read
Try the following tips to help your child learn to read. But before you start, remember that you cannot force a child to read but can surely encourage them and instill a love of reading in them.
1. Use nursery rhymes and songs
Listening to nursery rhymes helps children learn sounds and syllables. Building rhythm by clapping to the songs they hear helps develop phonemic awareness in them. This is a great way to prepare your child for their learning process.
2. Make word cards
You can make small flashcards by sticking an image on a piece of paper followed by its name written in bold letters right below it. Show your child the image, then say the name of the object out loud. Spell out the name by pointing at each letter. Use only two- or three-letter words.
3. Inculcate the habit of reading
Children learn through observation and imitation. If they see you reading often, they will pick up that habit and sit with a book even when they cannot really read. Your habit of reading can help them develop a love of books. You can also read to them every night, so they develop a habit of reading.
4. Promote reading through games
You can encourage your child to read by playing different reading games. For instance, you could ask them to read road signs or simple hoarding boards or even the names of toys written on the outer box.
5. Use magnetic letters
Place magnetic letters on the fridge and ask your child to form words with them. You can start by teaching them vowels and consonants. For example, you can place the letters ‘b’ and ‘t’ apart and ask your child to fill in an appropriate vowel to form a word.
6. Introduce sight words
Sight words are short and common words that appear on almost every page that children read. Children need to learn these words by heart. You can use a computer game or a chart paper to help your child learn these words in a fun way.
7. Talk to them
Talk to your child as much as possible. Ask them questions they can answer in simple and full sentences. Talking to your child helps develop their language skills and makes it simpler for them to associate written words with what they have heard.
8. Repeat common words
Read to them and repeat the common words you use frequently. Then try to use those letters in different combinations for different words. For example, “tap” and “pat.” Help them learn simple and common words first.
9. Buy books of their interest
When your child gradually starts to recognize words, you can encourage them to read simple sentences by buying them children’s books based on their topic of interest. When they have a book that interests them, they will tend to read more.
10. Make meaning of what is read
To help your child better understand what they are reading, you can have them read a sentence and then ask them to explain what they understood from it. Emphasize the meaning of keywords in a sentence and explain the exact meaning of the sentence.
11. Use a dictionary
Do not let your child read a book without teaching them how to use a dictionary. When children start to read independently at an early age, encourage them to refer to the dictionary to understand the meaning of every new word they come across. This practice can help them expand their vocabulary at a young age.
Benefits Of Learning To Read Early
Teaching your child to read at an early age has several educational and psychological benefits. The following are some reasons why your child should start reading early.
1. Instills a love of reading
Children who start reading early tend to develop a healthy relationship with books and even a love of reading and learning. Reading helps such children gather more knowledge.
2. Develops linguistic skills
When children learn to read at an early age, they learn and absorb new words faster and are better positioned to expand their vocabulary compared to other children. They can understand how words are used in different contexts and can speak more fluently in school.
3. Improves writing skills
Good writing skills are essential not only for writers, but also for everyone in general. Imagine your child becomes an expert computer programmer someday but does not know how to write a formal email to their boss explaining the application they have developed. Eloquent writing skills never go in vain.
4. Improves communication skills
If your child understands how to use a word in varying contexts, it becomes easier for them to express themselves. They can also be clear with what message they wish to convey when talking to people and communicate better.
5. Promotes creativity
Reading from an early age helps spark creativity and stimulates children’s imagination. Through imagination, your child can create anything out of nothing, which further boosts creative thinking.
6. Develops self-confidence
Children with rich vocabulary and impeccable grammar are often articulate speakers and tend to be confident. Their communication skills put them in a more favorable position during social interaction with other people.
Children are like knowledge sponges — they will easily absorb whatever you give them. Teaching young ones to read at an early age can awaken their curiosity and make them explore new things independently. They will show interest in learning new languages, subjects, and skills, which will help with their mental development. So, grab a children’s book and start reading to your little one right away.
2. Reading to Young Children: A Head-Start in Life; Department of Education and Early Childhood Development – The University of Melbourne3. Symptoms – Dyslexia; National Health Service
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