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Teaching kids to read at home. Photo: Touch-type read and spell

Most people don't think about the process of learning to read until they decide to start teaching their own children at home.

Contrary to what some people believe, learning to read is not a 'natural' process that happens all on its own. It's a complex one that requires the proper teaching of various skills and strategies, such as phonics (knowing the relationship between letters and sounds) and phonemic awareness. Here are some useful tips to teach your kids to read at home.

Read to your child

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Photo: Reading Eggs

One of the most important things you can do to encourage your child to read to your child every day. Even as your children get older, making reading part of your daily routine will encourage a culture of reading in your family.

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to make this experience fun. Let your children pick books they enjoy. Use your storytelling skills (and character voices) to keep your child engaged. Fun voices and storytelling will aslo help younger children follow the story better. Remember, if you’re bored or seem bored, your child will pick up on it.

Create fun games

Play fun games with your child to help with sight words, phonics words, or spelling. Try a word scavenger hunt or a sight word game. Take turns reading poems in silly voices or find and follow a recipe together.

Use songs and nursery rhymes to build phonemic awareness

Children's songs and nursery rhymes aren't just a lot of fun—the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read. A good way to build phonemic awareness (one of the most important skills in learning to read) is to clap rhythmically together and recite songs in unison. This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for kids to implicitly develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success.

Make simple word cards at home

Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. ram, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third. This simple activity requires little prep‑time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills (helping them learn how to sound out words). If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names. according to Readingeggs.

Have a wide variety of books available in your home

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Photo: ThoughtCo

Your child should see books in their home multiple times a day every day. There should always book nearby so your child can have the opportunity to read if he or she wants to. Stock your library with age-appropriate books about your child’s interests, favorite characters, and favorite types of stories. Does your child love stories about other children, fantasy or science fiction? Books about talking animals? Any story with their favorite character?

Read together on a daily basis and ask questions about the book

A lot of people don't realize just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child. Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you're also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like. Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.

Make reading a priority in your home

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: You are the biggest role model in your child’s life. Let them see you reading every day for at least 15 minutes (and we don’t mean on mobile devices, since children associate those with games and social media). Pick up a book, newspaper, or magazine, and settle in for a few quality minutes of reading.

If you are able to convince your child to sit down and read next to you, great! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Even if they’re not actively participating, simply letting your child catch a glimpse of you reading each day can impact their approach to reading.

Explore reading programs at your local library

Visit your local library and let your child participate in their children’s reading programs. Most community libraries have reading time sessions that can help you child strengthen their reading skills in a fun, age-appropriate atmosphere.

Encourage your child to read to a pet

Research shows that when children read to a dog, they are less afraid and more engaged in their reading assignments. It gives them the opportunity to read in front of another individual, but without the pressure that is sometimes felt when reading to classmates. It also gives them an opportunity to try out some of the storytelling techniques they emulate from you, in a safe, non-judgmental environment. If you don’t have a pet at home, consider giving your child a special stuffed animal friend to whom to read, as reported by Kidsvillage.

Don’t make reading a chore

As soon as reading becomes something that is a required, painful part of the day, you’ve lost. Keep reading fun and light. If your child doesn’t seem interested, then it’s time to get creative (not time to crack down)! It doesn’t take very many bad reading experiences before your child begins to develop a distaste for the important skill, and each positive experience not only builds their relationship with you, but also builds their love for reading. Remember to have fun with it, and your child will enjoy reading, too!

Be patient

Every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do is to make it enjoyable. By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you'll instil an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.

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