When to Start Teaching Your Toddler to Read

Learning to read is an important milestone for every child. Adults who learn a foreign language do not master it as effortlessly as a child does. However, starting off your 2-year-old on reading books might not be as good an idea as it seems.

Most researchers and developmental psychologists believe that the average child does not really start reading until he is about 5 or 6. This is because your little one is yet to form the neural connections that enable him to identify printed letters and combine them to form words. If your child is able to read earlier than 5, he probably just picked it up instead of responding to direct instruction.

Teaching Your Toddler to Read – How Soon Is Too Soon

Teach your Toddler to Read
"Children reading c.1960 Celebrating World Book Day" by Archive New Zealand is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Before starting your toddler off on a reading program, you need to know whether they are able to track an object visually. Hold an object about 8-10 inches away from their face and move it slowly from right to left and vice versa. If they are able to track it with their eyes, you can safely introduce him/her to a reading program.

Teaching Your Toddler to Read – Indirect Instruction

Most kids only begin to read by the time they are 5 or 6; however, they begin learning to read long before that. That is why it is important to instill a love of reading in your child as soon as possible. Introduce him to books that contain interesting and easy-to-understand stories. Get them excited about books and let them see that books are important.

Teaching Your Toddler to Read – Some Essential Tips

  • Read to them. Babies as young as 6 months enjoy looking at colorful pictures and labels, while 1-2 year olds tend to be more interested in rhyming books. Between the ages of 3 and 6, your child’s attention is likely to be captured by books with simple stories and relatively more amounts of text.
  • Hold the book properly. Your toddler likes to see and touch things that hold his attention as you read to her/him. Doing this also makes the reading more interactive and helps to hold their attention.
  • Cut out the baby talk. To improve your baby’s reading readiness, you must talk to them clearly and directly instead of indulging in cutesy baby talk.
  • Set a good example. Let your child see you reading something everyday – a magazine, a novel, or the newspaper – the choice is yours.

Sometimes it can be tempting to force our kids to learn to read or memorize the alphabet by a certain age. We resort to DVDs or flashcards that claim to turn toddlers into fluent readers in no time at all. Do not buy into this – let your child live his childhood and learn at their own pace. Your child’s natural curiosity, with a little help from you, will lead them to explore and conquer the world of print. Be prepared to spot those ‘teachable moments’ and take advantage of them.

You can use JumpStart’s collection of fun and printable reading worksheets and activities for kids of all ages to boost the learning process.

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