Stop Teaching Your Preschooler to Read

My daughter pounced on me. When I read her bedtime stories, I sometimes stop, point to a word in my most compelling voice, and say, “Hmm, I don’t know that. LID? Can you help me?”

Almost five years, and does not fall for this nonsense at all, then tell me: “Mom, just read it.” And I will continue reading. Like a fool.

I’m pretty sure she’ll learn to read when she learns to read, but as a parent I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t be trying to speed up this process. I followed the advice of friends and bought BOB Books for novice readers, and I often ask her to speak words. I can say that she almost understands it, but I can also say that I am not helping much. So when Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Parenting Children Who Read, told me that parents don’t have to worry about teaching young children how to read – and in fact he warns against it – I felt free.

It turns out parents are pretty messy reading instructors, especially when they get their hands on flash cards, handwriting worksheets, reward tables, and other traditional tools we all know and hate. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” Willingham says of parents in general. “If your child is facing serious difficulties, chances are good that he will go to school and think, ‘Read? Oh, this is the thing that worries me about Mom and Dad, and it’s hard for me to understand, and I don’t really like it. ” Then the teacher should try to overcome this first negative experience your child had. “

When parents get stuck in teaching their children to read, they overlook their more important task – one that will help their children get on the path to lifelong reading success: teaching children to love to read. Here’s what to do instead.

Read them a lot of highly informative texts

Willingham recently wrote an article in the New York Times, “How to Train Your Mind to Read,” and it’s mesmerizing. By picking up the readers, it seems like we are doing it wrong. Parents and teachers tend to view the learning process in separate blocks. When children are very young – they are about 4, 5 or 6 years old, we teach them to “decipher” words. It is only in the fourth or fifth grade that we move on to understanding. “It’s too late,” says Willingham. “Decoding and understanding are not the same thing,” he tells me. “There are times when you can read the content out loud, but you don’t understand what you are reading.” In later grades of elementary school, as the texts become more complex, understanding becomes much more difficult. And so the kids are fighting.

Instead, we must think of our children as whole readers from the start. In an article for the New York Times, Willingham writes that “understanding is closely related to knowledge.” He invites parents to leave teaching to teachers and just read with their children. I read often. Read everywhere. Read for your pleasure. Read fiction. Read nonfiction literature. Explore different topics. Traditionally, lyrics for elementary grades “were light in content,” Willingham writes. (“Mac sat on the mat,” etc.) Children can absorb more complex information and stories when you read to them than when they read the text themselves, so it’s important to watch out for this by following their natural curiosity.

Read with purpose

When parents play teachers, children can say this. “They think, ‘Why are you asking me to read this? You are reading this. You are obviously just testing me, ”says Willingham. “And they start to resent.”

He says parents can help children read by using situations in which reading has some benefit. “For a short period of time in our house, my youngest thought it was fun when we asked her to clean her room, but we did it by writing down each assignment on a piece of paper. Take all your toys away. She would read a piece of paper, then go out and do it, and then come back for another piece of paper. ” (Umm, well done.)

Other ideas: Make shopping lists together. Or read your daily routine. Willingham says, “When you’re in the car, you can tell your child, ‘I’m looking for Patrick Street. Can you help me find it? ‘Or say, “Let’s see how many T’s we see here.”

He says parents are already doing a lot of great things, like reading books that play with the sounds of speech. “Doctor. Seuss has plenty of them, ”says Willingham. “Listen to rhymes, hear alliteration, understand that there is something funny about the sentence“ Oh my God, pieces of green grapes! “- it all helps.”

Make reading a family value

Ultimately, to teach children to love to read, parents must love to read themselves. Parents should “support reading as a path to enjoyment,” Willingham says. Research has shown that parents who consider reading to be fun raise children who read better than those whose parents consider reading to be an academic skill.

It’s about the mindset of curiosity. “Ask the children questions,” says Willingham. “If all you do is tell them what to do, you are sending a message that speech is meant to communicate your thoughts to other people,” he says. “But if you ask questions, you are sending the message that speech is for the knowledge of the world.”

What kids will get goes far beyond being able to decipher words on a page.


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