I have a lovely guest post today discussing a topic near to my heart: learning to read. I think the Montessori method is brilliant and hope to learn enough about it so I can implement some of its teachings with my child on weekends.
How do children learn to read?
A quote that can be found on social networks and libraries of countless bookworms from all over the world states: “Reading is dreaming with open eyes.” Books are wonderful, they inspire us, make us forget about the world, and teach us many things. But do you remember how difficult it was to get the hang of reading when you were young? Here is what science says children go through while learning to read at an early age.
Speaking is easy, reading – not so much
We learn to speak fluently simply by being surrounded by spoken language from infancy, but no matter how many books there are around us, unless we are taught to read we will not understand the meaning of printed words. The language we speak fluently is usually the one no one taught us – mother tongue, and when children are exposed to more than one language they learn to speak both fluently and become bilingual. As for reading, it must be approached consciously, willingly learned, and practiced often.
Understanding the written words
Reading is complex; when beginning to read a person links known sounds to appropriate letters using one part of the brain, while the other part of the brain turns them into words. In the beginning, this process is slow, and children and adults who are only learning to read often read very slowly. However, after that, a whole new brain section takes over and children begin building a permanent registry of words that reoccur and start recognizing them straightaway. On the other hand, there are people who struggle with this process, the ones with dyslexia or similar learning disabilities, and they need more time to process words they have read.
Conquering the alphabet
Children love to explore and learn, as long as they are learning through games and having fun. Children who are no older than two are interested in letters, and giving them letters cut out of different materials (for example sandpaper) which they can trace with their fingers is a good way to introduce letters in the first place. The world-renowned Montessori method begins in such a way: teaching children to recognize basic phonetic sounds first, and reading comes afterward much easily. What is more, writing is easier than reading because when they write children merely turn sounds into letters, while reading means finding phonetic sounds for letters and putting them into words.
Encourage them to read
Reading will not come naturally, it is long practiced and often very difficult for children to learn, but with your help and a bit of encouragement, children will improve their skills and learn to love written words. Read together, sit beside each other and read slowly while tracing words with your index finger. Choose interesting short stories, ask them about favorite parts afterward, and provide them with reading material they will enjoy.
Encourage your children to read, give them books that are appropriate for their age, and praise when they start discovering new worlds in different books. Let them get to know the fantastic worlds of fairy tales, Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Hobbit – magic hidden within book covers cannot be compared to anything else.
Emma is a teacher, constantly improving her skills both as a teacher and as a parent. She is passionate about writing and learning new things that can help you to lead a quality life. She is a regular contributor to High Style Life. You can follow her on Twitter @EmmahLawson.