Raising A Young Reader: When Is the Right Time?
Do you still remember the first time you’ve realized you can read already?
I bet you can because, by the age of 6 to 7, your brain has started to develop long-term memory, one that is called explicit memory, wherein you consciously participate in something, and it becomes imprinted in your brain.
That is about the same age that science suggests that a child can start reading properly.
The Science Behind Reading Age
According to research, children who were taught traditional training methods in reading are more likely to be ahead of their age group when it comes to development.
One of these methods is through Phonics, where the results show that it can increase a child’s reading skill by an average of 28 months, by the time they turn seven. If you haven’t tried this method of teaching, you should explore the techniques to better guide your child.
In another recent study, scientists have found that children who are good readers by age 7 are more intelligent in their later years, and at this early period, positive results such as improvement in IQ is evident already.
Assessing the Right Time
Here is an ideal development guide for child learning and reading:
At these learning stages a child:
- Can understand words when you combine them with motions
- Can understand thoughts when you communicate something to them
- Can understand a few words by how you use them, tonality and movements involved
- Can respond already when their attention is called
- Can start pointing to objects when you ask them
Like, asking “where is the ball?” and your child can easily point to it or bring you the item.
- Can imitate animal sounds
Like, “what sound does the dog make?”
- Can tell their name when asked
This is between late preschool and kindergarten
- Can understand signs and labels
- Know what can be touched and what is dangerous
- Can spell out their names and know which letters should be in capital form
- Knows that reading should start from left to right
- Can notice errors when reading, tries to correct it by asking
- Knows that a sentence should follow a logical sequence
- Recognizes that a story should have a beginning, a middle content and an ending
When they are being read to, they now know how to ask for more information, like; “then, what happens next?”
- Can give word examples with letter association
- Can now respond to: “can you give me two words that start with the letter A?”
- Can read with confidence and with less guidance
- Can start reading short storybooks
- Starts to emphasize some words when reading aloud
- Can make tonal expressions and make facial expressions as they react to the story
- Can relate to stories using images and context clues
- Spelling skills have started to develop
- Starts to give meaning to what is being read
- Can write short paragraphs for homework and school activities
Based on the scientific basis mentioned, we can say that the ideal age, according to science, is between the age of 6 and 8.
Now let’s talk about how you can help to hone the skill.
Here are some tips to further guide them in their development:
Have a regular chat with your child.
Talking to your child every day not only helps in creating a strong bond and a good level of parent trust. It is also one of the best ways to ask about their school performance.
In these conversations, you can tell if the child has difficulties at school. One thing that you can ask about is their interest and performance in reading.
You can start by asking “so what did you learn today?”, “did you read something new in school today?”.
Make wise use of technology
There is an emphasis on the word “wise” part, it is because as much as we want to credit advancements in technology for creating avenues for child learning, it also serves as a distraction sometimes.
It is a constant challenge to keep them engaged in learning activities instead of playing games but with the absence of a real library, and getting actual reading resources, like books and charts, digital is your way to go during this pandemic.
Just make sure that your child’s exposure to online content is safe.
Introduce new reading materials
We all know that buying basic needs lately has been challenging and e-commerce plays a vital role in your purchasing activities now.
There are two things that you can do:
- Order physical books online (make sure to wipe them clean when you receive them!)
- Use an E-book reader (e.g. Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo, Redfox Wizlib)
- E-book readers are better than tablets and iPads because some model units don’t have internet access.
- The screen color and texture mimic real book pages. It is safer for their eyes.
- Get free resources online
- Have a target number of words that you and your child will work on for him or her to learn. Set targets like 10 words per day, or 50 in a week.
- Create a quest map where there will be tasks to be accomplished before moving to the next level (like snakes and ladders or monopoly).
- Each step could be a tile of a book or one chapter per tile.
- A Harry Potter quest would be a good start for this, you can use the stories, places, and characters in your home game design!
Now, don’t be confused.
There are two types of reinforcement; there is positive and there is negative reinforcement.
I know, the word negative doesn’t sound so good.
So, let’s break them down so you can assess which one is best to use.
Negative Reinforcement is a method that can be used to teach a specific behavior.
There are many ways to do it, but in your child’s case, you can use it to teach discipline.
For example, you created a reading schedule with your child and he or she still wants to use the PlayStation, or won’t put down the iPad. You can choose to implement a “no gadget period” as a ground-rule when the child refuses to follow the reading schedule.
Over time, your target goals for your child’s reading development should improve. This is because they already know that something pleasurable to them, like “gadget time” will be the trade-off. But of course, you don’t want to be a “cop parent” you want to strike a good balance between imposing discipline and guiding your child to reach their development goals.
Always remember to explain everything to your child. Make sure that they understand the reason why keeping a disciplined routine can help them and why there will be consequences if they don’t.
Keep in mind that your goal is to make reading a fun and enjoyable activity!
Positive Reinforcement is giving something like a form of reward when a desired action or behavior is done.
The goal is to unconsciously form consistent reading behavior. Something that they will look forward to, as an enjoyable activity.
Make sure that you know when is the best time to give a reward.
Set a goal, like having to finish a short story book before giving the reward.
How to Use Positive Reinforcement:
Simple words of affirmation
Simply affirming your child for every effort done to practice or build the habit of reading can boost their confidence.
You can give affirming words/phrases instantly (e.g. Nicely done! / Good job! / Your development is doing well!).
Feedback is not for adult communications alone; kids need it too! A lot.
When you give positive feedback, make sure to be specific so that the child will know what they did well.
Knowing their strengths and being recognized for it will make them continue improving. (e.g. I was impressed with how fast you finished Dear. Mr. Henshaw, son. I also like all your insights about it!)
A New Book (Physical or Digital)
Some kids always look forward to buying new toys and some kids look forward to being given a new book.
Buy your kid’s new age-appropriate reading materials that they can read after school, or during the weekends. Make sure to provide them good books during semester breaks too!
We are talking about kids between the ages of 6 to 8, and what kid at this age will refuse some treats?
It could be their favorite ice cream, cooking them their favorite food, or candies.
Who wouldn’t love a Mars bar or a box of Sour Patch?
Remember: Don’t overdo it. It is a good idea, but you don’t want their motivation to gravitate towards rewards alone.
Spoiling them with too many rewards will eventually defeat your main purpose.
Teaching anything to a child whose attention span flickers like a heartbeat can seem to be tough. But here is the good news, reading improves your child’s empathy and imagination.
It keeps their brains healthy, helps them to express their feelings better, makes them good at reasoning and critical thinking.
Pretty much what every parent would wish for a child.
Literacy is a significant measure to a child’s future success at school and in the big world, and obviously, reading is the first step.
Reading requires, practice, repetition, conditioning, and constant guidance.
On the flip side, this does not mean that there is no right age for a child to start reading.
The learning development timeline among age groups is ideal. So, it is best to observe how your child is on track.
It goes to show that there is no “too early” or “too late” age for a child to start reading well, but there is an ideal guide so you can monitor progress.
So, go ahead, and buy that Harry Potter set now! Star with a new adventure!