It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to read to your kids. It’s something you should do every day or at least at some regular frequency. There are so many different skill levels when it comes to “knowing how to read”. Being an above average reader will increase your child’s ability to do just about anything and everything necessary to eke out a living in this world. As I have said before, I believe that reading skill levels fall into a vast spectrum of beginning to advanced. There is always room for advancement in education and vocabulary.
The best method of teaching your child to read is repetition. By reading to your child at a high frequency, you set him up to know so much about this important skill without him even knowing for a moment that he’s learning. To him, it’s just fun and for you it’s quality time spent with your child.
How do you maintain your child’s interest? Let him pick the books he wants to read. If he’s not paying attention, you can stop reading until he realizes you’ve stopped. Tell him that you’re only ready to continue when he’s ready to pay attention. You can’t expect a high level of attentiveness every night (see Sleep, Napping, and Attitude). You need to read [pun intended] the situation every night and act accordingly. When you’re child is highly attentive, use your finger to follow along with each spoken word. If you notice that he’s turned off by this, just back off and read without your finger. There will obviously be more learning occurring when your child is willing to follow your finger, but you can’t expect that to happen all the time. The most important thing is to make the time you spend reading fun. Pay attention to the situation and don’t over burden him with trying to learn everything in one night. Capitalize on the nights where there is high attentiveness and just make it easy on the nights when he doesn’t want to make it like classwork.
Why nights? I say nights because for our family it’s the easiest time to capture their attention. After bath and after the teeth have been brushed, I can get both my 2 yo daughter and 4 yo son into my son’s bed with just enough room for me too (it’s a double size mattress). We can start out with her books which are geared toward a younger child and then put her off to bed. Then we can start in on his books which can be a little more advanced. This way he can have double practice. Nights work best for us, but you may find a different time more suitable for you. The important thing is the frequency. Find a time when you can have their attention for a little while and make that reading time. Maybe it’s before dinner. Maybe it’s just after dinner. Maybe it’s your hold out before they get to watch a TV show or play their video game. Use no shame in over emphasizing how important this skill is toward helping your child and collectively helping our society and country.
I honestly don’t know “when” a child knows how to read. I don’t know that there’s a light switch moment. If you’ve ever cultivated a garden, you know that plants don’t go from seed to fruit bearing overnight. There is time between seed, sapling, maturity, and fruit bearing. You tend that garden every day, but it takes time, love, and devotion if you expect it to bear fruit. Reading will either be enjoyable or not enjoyable for your child depending on how you grow that garden. If your children find enjoyment in reading, their life and your life will be made so much more fulfilling and enriched. Every single thing that they set out to do is made easier when they have confidence in their reading. They can jump in and try to do something new without training because they can teach themselves. These days you can download the instructions, read them, and then watch a youtube.com video of the process and pretty much do anything that your heart desires. They will be able to do all of that without anything other than the ability to read.
If you read about the mind of a child you will see that the brain of a child is having twice the synaptic brain activity from ages 1 to 3 versus that of an adult. Children’s brains are literally like dry sponges as compared to our older nearly saturated noodles. This is the time to expose those young brains to the proper stimuli.
Now is the time to capitalize on teaching your children to read. Carpe diem!