If your 5-year-old is picking up books, asking you to read aloud or pretending to read himself, it's time to teach him how to read. Don't wait for the kindergarten teacher to do all the work. Schools now expect children to start school already knowing beginning reading skills like letter naming and rhyming. Unless you have Mary Poppins as a live-in nanny, the responsibility of teaching your child to read lies with you. So get ready to sing the ABC song and read some Dr. Seuss. Your 5-year-old is waiting for you to begin.
Your child needs to know that letters have a corresponding sound before he begins to read. You can teach the sounds as your child learns letter names. Say each sound yourself, then have your child repeat it. You can also utilize Internet sites like Starfall and PBS Kids that reinforce and teach letter sounds with interactive games. These can also give you a refresher course in phonics. You may be one of many adults who learned to read by sight, or memorization, rather than phonetically, and you don't want your child to learn sounds erroneously. For example, "b's" and "d's" are quick, clipped sounds, not elongated ones and should not be pronounced as "duh" and "buh."
Select simple books that match your child's current age and ability level. Dr. Seuss books like "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Horton Hears a Who" are good choices because they have repetitive text and rhyming words, two elements that reinforce reading skills. If your child is a pre-emergent reader, he uses picture clues and is still learning to recognize sight words. An emergent reader already knows many sight words and can sound out simple words. If you can't get to the library, don't worry. The Internet has printable books you can download at no charge. These are already leveled for emergent readers, featuring large print and pictures that depict the sentences on each page.
Demonstrate how to track while reading, which simply involves moving your finger under the words as you read. This helps your child learn that words need space between them and that print is read from left to right. Don't worry: your 5-year-old won't read by tracking forever. It's a practice that good readers abandon without realizing it. You probably don't track words anymore when you read.
There are many words in the English language that you cannot sound out phonetically. Help your child learn and remember these sight words like "is," "my" and "we" that are frequently used when speaking and found often in books. Print out a list of words or make flashcards so your child can become familiar with them. When your child begins to read, knowing these words will help him become a more fluent reader.
Reading aloud is one of the easiest ways to show your 5-year-old how to read. This traditional parental duty is more than just a way to get your child to sleep. It demonstrates many reading skills. Your child will learn how to stop at punctuation, remember sight words and hear letter sounds blended together to make words. Most importantly, your child will hear a fluent reader who reads with expression and word accuracy. According to research by the National Reading Panel, fluency is a characteristic of a successful reader. Did you ever think that reading "Jack and the Beanstalk" or "The Three Little Pigs" could be so beneficial?