The famous writer and politician Richard Steele once stated: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
Reading is essential for functioning in the world around us and is critical for thinking and reasoning skills. Nonetheless, teaching this most basic skills is a daunting and difficult task for many home educators.
Teaching reading mastery, however, is far less difficult when the child is taught beginner literacy skills at a very young age.
Parents committed to homeschooling often start intentionally educating their children from the cradle with brain stimulating classical music and red, white, and black mobiles. Yet, many of these same parents wait to begin formal reading instruction until ages of 5 or 6 years—missing the critical years of brain development and periods for foundational skills development and literacy exposure.
In my book “Reading at ONE!: A Guide to Early Literacy Exposure for Toddlers and Children,” I cover a variety of strategies to get children reading at an early age. Here are three strategies that are sure to get your homeschooled child reading early.
1. Segment Words While Reading
Segmenting simply means breaking words down into individual sounds or syllables. It is different from blending, which involves pulling together individual sounds or syllables within words. Segmenting is easily modeled and highly effective when used while reading to your child.
Once your student has mastered identifying all the letters and letter sounds, begin incorporating modeling or demonstrating segmenting while reading to your little one.
Segmenting words is easily done with almost any text—fiction and nonfiction. My book, “Big Book of Beginner Reading Stories,” has small passages that can be used to demonstrate segmenting and modeling.
For example, if the sentence reads, “The fat cat sat on a mat,” take some of the words in that sentence and sound them out. Read aloud, segmenting the sounds: “The f-a-t, fat, c-a-t, cat, s-a-t, sat, on a m-a-t, mat. Modeling reading strategies is even more critical than modeling fluent reading in the early years of teaching your child.
2. Audibly Spell Frequently Used Words
With the advent of autocorrect and spell check, some educators assert that it is no longer necessary to teach spelling. However, spelling is critical to beginner level reading instruction. Spelling builds the foundation for phonetic teaching and rules of reading English.
One simple and effective way to incorporate spelling into your literacy instruction is to spell aloud words that you use often with your child. Spelling is a transferable skill, which translates to both reading and writing. Therefore, it is critical to spell words aloud for your child as much as possible to foster early reading.
In my homeschool co-op, whenever one of my students’ godmother picks her up, she always asks the child if she wants to go to the P-A-R-K. By spelling out that word consistently, the child, of course, memorized the spelling of the word “park” and transferred and referenced the spelling skill to writing and reading.
3. Create a Print Rich Environment for Your Child
Children are sponges for information. Purposefully and intentionally place words and letters in the line of your children’s sight. Determining their line of sight by squatting down on their level or getting on your knees to see what they see.
Labeling is an effective way to create a print-rich environment. Label objects your student uses daily to encourage the mastery of high frequency words. Whether you homeschool in a separate room or in the kitchen, you can increase vocabulary and sight words by labeling with flash cards, tape, or post-its, which can be placed on things such as doors, doorknobs, tables, desks, pencils, crayons, the carpet and walls.
You can also create a print-rich environment by using anchor charts, used mainly to recognize goals and review concepts. When your child is very young—age 1 through 3 years old—use a simple anchor chart such as an alphabet chart to emphasize the letter sounds when teaching and reviewing.
Although reading is a skill that develops at a different pace for every student, there are effective strategies that can help your student excel at reading at a young age. Be sure to exercise the mind of your child through reading. It will make a huge difference later in their development.
This article is reprinted with permission of Texas Home School Coalition and the author. It originally appeared in Review magazine. Visit THSC.org.