teaching toddlers how to read

Can you teach a toddler how to read?

When my husband and I taught our elder one how to read when he turned four, I wondered whether he learned so fast because he was smarter than other kids or because we had simply tapped into this sooner than usual. Okay, now that my husband is no longer reading the article, I’m telling you I HAD to mention him. This is how we keep the “spark” alive in marriage. You’re welcome. Heh. Let’s move on to the real story. I got the chance to test this “hypothesis” on my second child. Can you teach a toddler how to read? Yes. We taught our three-year-old Azlaan how to read and it’s been a riot. You know, in a good way.

Before we go on further, let me just clarify that when I say 3, I don’t mean he just turned 3. I mean maybe a couple of months before he turned four. But the fact remains that we did it and I am super proud of that. The best part was finding out that it is possible if we just try!

I had always wondered if Zaviar, my firstborn, could have learned to read before he turned four if we had tried. So we decided to start teaching our little one in the last leg of the summer holidays this year while he was still three. In all seriousness, teaching children this young is not a one-person job and it is definitely not just a mommy job. As mothers, we are already so involved in the daily doings of our children that they act out the most with us. So don’t freak out if you can’t do it. It’s not a race. Ask the other parent to chip in so he can also beam with pride. 

With us, I taught the little one sight words first this time before we started blending three-letter words and moving on to four-letter ones. Then we went on to Peter and Jane and started off with 1a and 1b and then 2a and 2b. I can safely say that after that my kid found reading a chore when he did it with me and somehow magically loved reading with his father. Not that I was complaining. Look, I do give credit where it’s due. Sometimes. 

So I have already covered how I introduced the magical world of books and helped my firstborn take the first step into reading, and I followed the exact same steps for my younger one. You have to remember though that all children are different. My kids were ready and they showed us signs that led us to think we were not doing them justice by not helping them learn. If yours aren’t, then don’t force them. You can however encourage them. If it’s sight words you are starting with, start with maybe two words. Help him or her practice till they achieve perfection and cheer them on every time. 

How did I know my children were ready? They told us! My younger one was even more eager because he wanted to get to the reading level that his brother was at! Every time we went to the bookstore to get Zaviar a book, we would get one for Azlaan too so he wouldn’t feel left out. 

If I can do it with both my kids, so can you! For those that will say it’s not necessary, and to let kids be kids, I totally agree with you! It really isn’t “necessary” and we should definitely let kids be kids. For sure, they will learn how to read in school. But if they are happy to learn, and most children are, then why not introduce them to the magical world of books and let them bask in the pride of knowing how to read themselves? My little one beams with pride every time he manages to read a billboard or some random sign. Sometimes, he gets it wrong and we gently correct him with a smile. But we never forget to cheer him on. Always remember: As parents, you are your children’s biggest cheerleader!

Farwah Shah
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