Learning to read is a process that begins at birth. It begins with listening and speaking skills and, as a child inches toward his school years, begins to manifest itself through the formal recognition of letters and words. Although children typically don’t learn to read independently until they are 5 or 6 years old, with daily encouragement , a 2.5-year-old can learn to recognize the meaning present in printed letters and words.
According to Reading is Fundamental, the foundation for reading starts at birth. All of those coos and babbles your baby makes are teaching her to recognize that certain sounds are associated with certain words and that those words have meaning. The interaction that a child has with her primary caregivers in these early years are critical to her ability to learn and process information. If you want your baby to be an early reader, keep up those games of “patty cake” and “peek-a-boo” -- even though they may seem nonsensical, they’re helping your child’s language development.
One of the most effective ways to teach your child to read is also one of the most basic: read to him. According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, reading to your child for just 20 minutes a day from birth connects brain cells that will later foster his ability to independently read. Routine exposure to printed words will contribute to a child’s early reading skills and will teach your child the phonetic process of associating printed letters and words with their contextual meanings. Making story time a daily part of your child’s routine from birth will encourage early literacy.
Learn Your ABCs
Children typically learn to read using phonetic awareness. This means that they will first learn to sing their “ABCs” without truly understanding the context behind the song; as they progress toward preschool, they will learn to recognize the sounds associated with those letters and then, finally, learn that those individual letters form words that have meaning. Using simple flash cards, you can encourage your child to begin recognizing words, letters and sounds phonetically to begin building the foundation for independent reading.
To help your child learn to recognize the patterns and sounds inherent in words, take cues from everyday objects. For instance, if your toddler wants to help feed the family dog, point out the word “Dog” on the bag of dog food: “See what it says there? That’s the word ‘dog.’ d-o-g spells dog!” If you’re taking your child for a walk around the neighborhood, point out a stop sign: “See that sign? It says 'Stop.' S-t-o-p spells ‘stop!’” Soon enough, your child will learn that words have meaning, and, before you know it, those basic babbles will turn into bona fide word recognition.