We have seen it happen in our child care centres in the Perth area and studies across the world are proving it; children can learn to read when they are a lot younger than you may think. There are three basic skills involved in reading: semantics, syntax and phonics.
Semantics is how to relate words in a sentence to one another. Syntax is the way words fit together to first form phases, then clauses, then sentences. Phonics are the sounds the letters make and how to translate a written word into sounds.
While your preschooler will be learning all of these, he or she doesn’t need to really be aware of it. We recommend telling children that it is going to a lot of fun, a big adventure, or something else that the child will find positive and exciting.
Children learn at their own pace. Most will learn some syntax before phonics, but all learning is valid and they eventually learn all three building blocks. The best way to encourage this is to expose your child to as much reading as possible every day. Read a bedtime story together. Read magazines together.
Young children are like information sponges; their brains take in more information the first few years of their lives than they will ever take in again. Take advantage of this by making sure they have as many opportunities to learn as possible. Just make sure that it doesn’t become work to them.
Syntax is usually the first skill that a child begins to learn. It starts with the recognition that there is a written language. First, a child notices that a book has pages and that they are supposed to go from page to page. Then, they begin to notice structure, such as words being in lines and reading being from left to right and up to down. Then, they progress to knowing a single word, then more. Then, they progress from complete sentences to paragraphs to chapters. Eventually, they will learn how punctuation controls starts and stops.
One great way to help develop syntax is to read books that rhyme aloud with your child. As you go, follow the words with your finger. This will give your child a guide to how a sentence progresses and help with learning the relationship between written words and spoken words.
Another great way is to write a letter or an email with your child. Stress various parts such as sentences, paragraphs, opening and closing.
This is the skill that helps us define and recognise words. This allows us to understand a story’s plot or its characters. It helps us understand the meaning of what we are reading. It also helps us form relationships between the meanings of different words. Here are a few ways to help your child learn semantics.
Read stories to your child, especially fairy tales.
Talk about the story as you read the book. Work toward helping your child predict how the story is going to end.
Let it flow. Keep moving through a sentence, even if there is a word the child doesn’t understand. If they want to know what the word means, tell them, but don’t get stuck on one word to a point where it detracts from the overall story or experience. You want your child to comprehend the entire sentence and the overall story. Save the tough words for later.
Phonics is the most mechanical part of reading. It is teaching the mouth how to say individual sounds and put them into “families” such as words that start with “c” or words that start with “d.” It also helps them learn the difference between words that look alike, such as “hat” and “cat.” They also need to learn different letters or combinations that sound the same, such as “f” and “ph.”
Here are some ways to help your child learn phonics.
Read and discuss rhyming books or songs with your child. Take two rhyming words and discuss how they are different.
Write down your child’s name, then the names of others in the family, then friends. Sound out every name with your child. Group them by their first letters.
Have your child do the reading while you listen. Help with new or difficult words.
Always sound letters first instead of naming them.
At each of our Cuddles Childcare Centre locations in the Perth area, we have the award-winning Jolly Phonics program once a week. The program is so much fun that children learn without making an effort to learn. This is natural learning at its best.
Call us for more information.