Reading is one of the most valuable activities you can do with your child. Teaching your young child to read isn’t about drilling him on his alphabet, it’s about building up his understanding of the letters, sounds, meanings of words and general concept of the story. These reading skills build a strong foundation for literacy and academic success.

Phonemic Awareness and Phonics

Understanding that each printed letter is connected with a sound and those letters are put together to create words is called phonics. Grasping the concept that sounds can be grouped together to make words to communicate with is phonemic awareness. When you read aloud to your child and use your finger to point to the text, he will start to develop a natural sense of these concepts. According to the research done by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s National Reading Panel, rhyming text works best for developing these reading skills. Pointing out letters and printed words in daily life, such as on cereal boxes and road signs, also solidifies this understanding.

Guided Oral Reading and Fluency

As a beginning reader, your child will need lots of practice to develop her reading skills. As she progresses, she’ll start to automatically read the words instead of sounding them out -- this is called fluency. Set aside time every day and encourage her to read books aloud to you. You can find beginning reader level books for this purpose. Be patient and let her sound out the words. Offer your child reading cues when needed and always provide positive feedback.

Vocabulary Words

Your child will continue to build his vocabulary as he progresses through childhood. Help him develop his reading skills and comprehension by introducing new words verbally in normal conversation, as well as discussing unfamiliar words during a reading session. Although you can offer a verbal explanation of the word, it’s useful to teach your child how to look up words in a children’s dictionary. Even if his reading skills aren’t at the level to read the definition, the act of looking up the vocabulary word and reading it aloud helps him understand the process of finding information.

Reading Comprehension

Reading goes beyond sounding out words and reading a sentence. Comprehension is a vital aspect of reading and making connections. As you and your child are working on her reading skills, you can test her knowledge and understanding by asking her questions about the material. Inquire about what your child thinks will happen next in the story. At the end of the story, ask her to summarize what happened.