Too Early To Teach Your Child To Read?

is it too early to teach your child to read?

When is the right time to teach your child to read? Maybe in playschool? No? Nursery or maybe Kindergarten? Well, many parents as well as experts share different views on this question.

In fact, a question put across a parenting forum got me thinking… A parent shared her apprehension thus –

My child has just entered Junior Kg. In a month and a half, teachers have finished teaching phonics and three letter words with a,e,i,o,u vowels. They now expect the kids to read short sentences. Will this approach put a lot of strain on my child? What is the correct age to teach a child to read and write?

The moment I read this, I wondered how could a 4 year old handle this with ease? Confusion reigns supreme in such cases. Children as young as 3 and 4 must be given sufficient time learn alphabets and phonics. What is needed is regular practice at a gradual pace.

Now teaching methodologies differ from board to board and school to school. Following is a general feedback I got from a few Mumbai based parents.

Many schools like AVM, Chembur allow kids to learn slowly with practice. Identification of alphabets, phonics, learning how to spell etc. are taken care of, gradually. A few others like Treehouse and Billabong High expect children to grasp topics sooner. They also have a vast curriculum. I was aghast when I saw that a well known school had Environment Science as a subject for Jr.Kg class and one of the topics covered was ‘Water Cycle’. I wonder what the child would make of it.

Despite your best efforts to make them understand, the school management will stick to their curriculum and teaching methods. It is definitely not feasible to change schools unless and until your child is not able to cope up despite all your efforts. So then what should be the right approach?

Child development experts and developmental psychologists agree on the fact that the brains of most children develop the skills required for reading and writing only around the ages of five or six. They will also tell you that language development in children begins at a very early age.

Many parents converse with their babies and toddlers in a playful manner, often weaving small stories around objects, people, animals, birds etc. They answer their toddlers’ questions with patience, pointing out facts about the world around us like “Hey! Look at the sun! It is bright and yellow!” Such playful conversations pave the way for proper language development.

When your child turns three or four, storytelling can be accompanied by picture books and big flash cards with colourful alphabets. You can also read aloud from books with lots of pictures and short words and sentences in big, colourful font. Do not expect the child to read these alphabets or words. Let him simply look at it. The alphabet shapes followed by the sounds you make get registered in their brains. Repeat the same story till the child gets bored and wants another story. Thus language development lays down the foundation for learning how to read and write as the child grows up. Mind you, this works better than letting your child watch so called learning videos online.

Another approach followed by a parent whom I know was to sit with her son in front of a mirror when teaching alphabet sounds. She took an orange, pointed out to the alphabet O using a flashcard and said ‘O’ says ‘AW’ as in Orange. The little fellow looked at how she puckered her lips like a fish to say ‘AW’. He copied her and said O for Orange, Orange ka ‘AW’. The mirror showed the child that he had copied his mother correctly. She only focused on teaching the ‘O’ sound for a few days.

So you see, you can follow a slow, tailor made approach to teach phonics and spellings to your child before he learns to read and write short sentences. Let the school follow its pace, whether fast or slow must not matter to you. Consistent efforts at a gradual pace, side by side works best.

Let me know what you think? Our readers would love to hear from you.

Photo Credits: www.freedigitalphotos.net,  David Castillo Dominici