Parenting: Teaching your preschooler to read

September 22, 2010

His teacher didn't seem concerned. After all, she told me, all children learn at their own pace. But I decided to take matters into my own hands: I don't know anything about teaching kids to read so I bought a few books on the subject and now, every day after lunch, Luke and I (along with 3-year-old Emma) have a reading lesson.

I found a book called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Engelmann. It is a 395-page SRA DISTAR reading program that is specifically written for parents who are interested in teaching their preschooler how to read. The author suggests you first set a schedule. The lessons only take 15-20 minutes and now my children look forward to it after lunch every day (especially since we get to go into the pool house attic - an unfinished "man cave," as my husband likes to call it, that Luke and Emma rarely get to visit.)

What makes it easy for parents is that our part is scripted. The author suggests you tell your little learner that some of the lessons may be easy and some may be tough, but that you think he/she can handle it. When your child is successful in a lesson you are encouraged not only to praise but to tell your child that he/she surprised you, since preschoolers love to surprise you with their abilities.

The book uses a phonetic alphabet, so it teaches the sound letters make, rather than just the names of the letters. There is also a fun segment in which you sound out words very slowly, your child repeats and then says them fast (Luke loves this part.)

While it seems meaningless at first, it's a great way to teach your youngster how to put a word together after sounding it out slowly. Emma loses interest quickly, but Luke is remembering a lot of sounds and even read "mat" and sounded out "Sam" today, very excited since he has a young friend named Sam. Every lesson ends with writing out the sounds they learned (in other works, writing the letters.) This is the part that Luke likes most and that returns Emma's interest since I got them both wipe off boards which they love to use.

There are probably a lot of other books out there and I would encourage parents of preschoolers to give them a try. We're only up to lesson ten now, so 100 lessons will take some time. But, the best thing is that it's a journey we are embarking on together and Luke is finding out that learning to read can be fun and doable - even with my busy schedule and Luke's short attention span.

Happy parenting!

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