When Little Sir was three, I thought I’d intentionally start teaching him the alphabet. After all, I started his big sister earlier than that – first-time mom syndrome, I know.
I thought everything that I did with T (goodbye, “Little”) would also work with Little Sir. So, during that period, I would write some letters on an easel and ask him to jump, skip, and hop to the alphabet mat. He refused.
I pointed out letters to him while I read aloud to him. He told me to stop it.
We watched Leap Frog’s Letter Factory. He wasn’t interested and would leave the TV room after a while.
I even started on Alphabooks with him, my own version of the popular Letter of the Week. It worked for some time, but eventually he didn’t want to do it anymore.
And oh, every time I asked him (quizzed him?) what a letter was or pointed out a particular letter, he would say something so far off with a mischievous grin.
So, I got the point, backed off, and followed my own advice. I just continued reading to him and his sister without the pressure to read. After all, they learn when they are ready to learn.
In The Learning Basket’s parenting workshops, we always say that reading is one of the milestones that parents watch out for and are excited about. It is an important milestone and we can’t help it if we get a little bit anxious… okay, really anxious, about it!
Experts say that reading is a skill that children acquire at different ages. My friend Tasha Mendoza, Center Director of reading specialist Readability Center, Pasig, says that this is because by nature, no two children are alike and that children’s skills vary “even if exposed to the same home and school reading culture.” I get that!
I was inspired to write this post because as soon as my son turned four late last year, he said that he wanted to learn how to read like his “Ate.”
I waited a bit and started him on Hooked on Phonics because I felt that all the “magic tricks” that I used on his big sister won’t work with him. I was a little bit scared, I guess!
And what do you know? One week in and we’ve just “covered” A to E, and he seems to have mastered the alphabet. Singing the alphabet song while pointing to each letter helped a lot. He also finds it especially fun to think of rhyming words for each word that we see in his alphabet books.
Indeed, children learn when they are ready to learn, physically and cognitively. Given a literacy-rich environment, lots of cuddle-reading time, kids can be motivated to learn how to read.
So, here are some tips to enjoy your kids while preparing them for reading and learning.
- Avoid comparisons – Yes, I was a bit guilty of this! Little T read at age three, and wasn’t it reasonable to expect that her little brother would too? Good thing I stuck to what I know and threw out those thoughts right away!
- Relax – There’s so much pressure now for kids to do things earlier and earlier. Well, our favorite educator Raymond Moore said “It’s better late than early”, so let’s all relax and just help our kids acquire the necessary skills needed for reading.
- Read for at least 20 minutes a day – Nothing fosters a love of reading better than being read to by your most favorite person in the world. So, do as children’s book author Rosemary Wells said: “Every day, make a quiet, restful place for twenty minutes. Put your child in your lap and read a book aloud. In the pages of the book you will find a tiny vacation of privacy and intense love. It costs nothing but twenty minutes and a library card.”
- Focus on reading readiness skills – Knowing the alphabet is just one of the many reading readiness skills! Tasha shares the skills that we need to focus on to help our children’s reading readiness: alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness (sound structure and patterns of words), phonemic awareness (manipulation of sound units), fun and engaging literacy-related activities (what The Learning Basket blog has a lot of!), basic shapes, colors, and numbers, and following directions.
I love to share things like this in our parenting workshops, but in case you can’t attend any, I hope you’ve gleaned something from this. Writing this post has been illuminating for me too