When should children start to learn to read?
I often get asked when children should start learning to read and what to do if your child shows an interest in reading.
I had a question recently about a 2.5 year olds with a passion for reading displaying some frustration at wanting to be able to read and what to do. They were also concerned about doing the wrong things.
How lovely that your little one loves sharing stories and books with you. I’m lucky enough to have a total bookworm too and it’s really magical. I often debate whether my daughter Floss is a book lover through nature or nurture. One thing I know for sure is that not a moment is wasted when we sit and share books together. They are cherished moments that started when she was in the womb!
Go With their Interests
Firstly, rest assured there is very little you can do ‘wrong’ when it comes to beginning a child’s journey into becoming a life long reader. If they love books already then it sounds like you’re off to a brilliant start. Don’t worry though – not all children love books and that’s ok.
Sharing Stories is Magical
Immersing children in quality texts and sharing the journey together is so valuable. There are so many different skills that children learn to be able to read and read for pleasure, most importantly is going with their interests. From the moment children are born they begin to develop skills to learn to read. Reading isn’t just about phonics.
When to Start Phonics
I began introducing letter sounds (phonics) to my daughter at around 2.5 years old because she had a real passion for it and it made her incredibly happy. Not all teachers would agree with this (I used to be a teacher). However, my philosophy has always been to go with the interests of the child. Equally, I believe some children aren’t ready for phonics until much later.
Some children may spark an interest briefly and then move on to another passion. For Floss she went through spells of being heavily fixated on letters and learning to read and then times where her interests went other ways.
Getting Phonics Right
If you did want to dip into phonics I would recommend checking out my phonics section on the website here. When I say you can’t do much wrong when teaching children to read there is one thing that is crucial. Correct pronunciation of sounds is essential – about two thirds down this post there is a little video clip about what I mean by pronunciation.
When beginning phonics personally, I make sure to do lots of phase 1 work initially. Find out more about phonics phases here. Phase 1 is mainly around distinguishing between sounds and making sounds – the more you do in this area the better. I continue to do phase 1 work throughout other phases as it’s so important.
Then, if you feel they are ready, begin to teach them a couple of letter sounds if it interests them such as /s/ and /a/.
Again, if they’re really keen you could continue. With my little one we used to focus on one letter sound per week roughly. We’d spot it around the home and while we were out and about and she’d always be very excited when she found it in the books we were reading. We’d also play lots of games.
You could also introduce a couple of high frequency words/ tricky words such as ‘I’, ‘the’ and ‘to’. These words they learn by sight and therefore when you are sharing a book together they could spot these and ‘read’ these for you. This is often enough to give them the sense they are ‘reading’ along with you.