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The national organization Reading Is Fundamental has it right: reading certainly is fundamental to helping ensure a child’s success in school. Poor reading ability affects every subject during the school day. Children with weaker reading skills often see themselves in a neg­ative way. In school, no one looks forward to hearing a poor reader read.

Unlike talking, reading is not a naturally occurring process. Reading has to be taught. Generally speaking, the ability to read is taught in a systematic process over an 8- to 12-year period. The reality, however, is that many basics of reading are learned long before a child is formally taught the process of reading.

So, parents, what can you do to help your child become a skilled reader?

The most important thing you can do is to introduce your child to words and language right away. A child is never too young to be talked to, read to, or sung to. These activities are critical for future reading because they introduce a child to the sounds of the language. It is also important to use a variety of approaches to intro­duce sounds. Singing to a child introduces more sounds and exposes one to the rhythmic quality words may have. Using rhyming words and words that describe sounds further broadens a child’s exposure to sounds. Your voice tones will help expand an interest in and attention to words.

As you read to your child, use a variety of books. There are thousands of children’s books on the market, but don’t forget to read stories from the Bible also. Using a children’s Bible provides not only good read­ing but also an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work through the Word.

Encourage your child to explore a wide range of vocal sounds. Tape record his or her talk and play it back. Teach your child simple songs and prayers using the name Jesus.

Sometime around the age of 3 or 4, a child will start to show an interest in letters. While it is good for your child to be able to identify the name of a letter, the sound of that letter is really more important. As a child becomes more familiar with this symbol-sound relation­ship, use two- and three-letter words to show how the individual sounds are put together to make a word. Another fun activity at this age is for you to say the indi­vidual sounds of the letters in a word and have your child say what the word is. These activities represent major building blocks for reading.

If your child shows an early interest in wanting to read, encourage it. Help develop a basic vocabulary, recognizable by both sound and sight. Show how words fit together to make simple statements.

Continue to read to your child on a regular basis. This will help maintain a high level of interest. Ask questions about what you have read. Factual questions develop memory skills, and questions that begin with “Why . . .” or “What would have happened if . . .” teach critical thinking.

Enjoy words with your child. Have fun with lan­guage. Appreciate the marvel of this wonderful gift by using the tools of the written and spoken word to bring glory to God through the sharing of ideas.

From Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Image credit: StockSnap, Pixabay (used under Creative Commons CC0)