Are you a confused parent wondering if your baby can read?
You are not alone. Most parents feel the same way – they are torn between the excitement and the doubt [of teaching their baby how to read].
If you want your baby to read as early as possible, it’s time to start now without any further delay.
Not sure? Keep reading and discover the exact methods I used to teach my 2-year-old how to read Grade 1 books within just a couple of months.
If using the right techniques can cause my baby can read, then I am confident your baby can read by using those same techniques!
But before we begin, I want to be honest. I won’t claim that teaching a baby how to read is easy or possible for everyone.
However, for those parents who are persistent and prepared, I can assure you that their babies will be ahead – they will have a clear understanding and love of the written word before they even begin school.
The Secret to Teaching Your Baby How to Read
Here’s the deal: it’s not possible for your baby to read before you prepare him/her for reading [using the right techniques]. This is a process that usually takes months or years of effort.
And your baby will demonstrate you their reading skills only after they have [obviously] developed their speech.
The secret most parents don’t know about is that the ideal time to prepare a baby how to read time is the time period before speech development.
When babies are surrounded constantly by words, they will start viewing them no differently than as ‘objects’ that are to be understood and deciphered. By constant repetition, it won’t be too long before your baby starts to use speech to identify these text ‘objects’.
So, exactly what is the best way to prepare your baby for reading? Here are my 3 tested techniques:
- Read, read, read – The most natural way to prepare your baby for the written word is to expose your baby to the written word through reading. This means you should read books aloud to your baby throughout the day. Make it a point to emphasize the text before you show them the illustrations. You can easily do this by putting your finger underneath the text being read. Cover up the illustrations while you read and show them only after you are finished reading the text. Providing your baby with the written word is a great start.
- Listen to audiobooks – Babies absorb so much through auditory listening. When you are not reading aloud, turn on an audiobook. The idea is for your baby to become accustomed to language. By hearing adults communicate, your baby will begin to understand patterns and repetitions.
- Use visuals – Auditory learning is not enough as it merely prepares your child for reading. Using the written word as a visual will directly prepare a child for reading. Ideally, when you introduce your child to an object, you should also have ready and point out the written form of that object. This is where flashcards are effective. In the next section, we will discuss, in detail, the 3 different types of visuals I used to speed up this process.
3 Simple Ways to Teach Words to Your Baby
If you are ready to teach your baby how to read, it’s time to create these 3 visuals using the right word list. Visuals are one of the best ways you can easily and quickly teach your baby how to read.
I know because that’s exactly how I taught my 2-year-old how to read Grade 1 books. Here are the 3 visuals that will help you get started with your baby’s reading journey right away.
Helpful tip: Be sure to get started on a consistent daily schedule ASAP.
- Text Flashcards – These are basic text flashcards with specific words written on them from my word list. Illustrations are optional but one side of the flashcard should have only the text. What is the word list? It consists of the basic alphabet, short vowel phonics, long vowel phonics, consonant blends and sight words.
- Labeling Home Object – These are simply flashcards you use to label every single object in your house. Examples include making labels for: “hairdryer”, “apple”, “bedroom”, etc. You make these flashcards and attach them to the corresponding in your house. Then you simply walk with your child around the house giving them a tour of each object. Not only does it teach your child how to read, but it also expands their vocabulary.
- Educational videos & Digital Media – These consist of educational videos that teach words (as opposed to entertaining cartoons) and digital media that teach words, such as slideshows and digital flashcards. As digital media is something your child will eventually be exposed to, it’s best to use it in the beginning to teach reading to your child.
How to Make the Connection Between Speech and Reading Words
If done correctly, it’s possible that your young child will start reading a couple of months after learning to speak (or at the same time). How is this possible you might ask? Well, let me give an example.
If your child can see the shape of an object such as a ‘table’ on paper and say that’s a table, why isn’t it possible for him/her to see the shape of the word ‘table’ and say that’s a table? Imagine teaching a baby both these things side by side.
I used this same technique with my son, and he was learning to read around the same time he was learning to speak. This is because I worked on literacy development from day one. Of course, this stage depends 100% on the amount of training given to the child. Just like we train children to recognize objects, it’s possible to train them to read words.
They may be reading by the whole language technique in the beginning because it’s the simplest. But don’t worry, that’s a start.
In the beginning, your child’s literacy development will begin with whole language, phonemic awareness, and sight words using techniques such as this one. Eventually, your child will use all five techniques including more advanced techniques such as vocabulary and reading comprehension.
But, What About Screen Time?
This is a hotly debated topic, but we recognize parents have their own reasons for their personal screen time choices. Some parents allow it; some parents do not.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you do allow TV viewing, then it is much better to have your child watch something educational. If you do not allow it, you should start with flashcards.
No matter if you allow screen time or not, it is crucial that you read and expose your child to the written text. You should not allow a screen or an educational toy do the work because this is ineffective.
Teaching your young child how to read and exposing your child to the written word is as important as teaching them to master any other lifeskill or milestone, such as learning how to walk or using the toilet independently.
The Surprising Truth About Your Baby’s Brain
The truth is that although babies cannot read or talk, there are many complex processes going on in their little brains. Before a baby leaves the womb, he/she is already learning to differentiate between sounds. This is why parents are often encouraged to start reading to the womb.
Whether we are aware or not, babies’ literacy development begins before birth with the recognition of voices. By the 1st month, babies’ oral development has begun. Between 3-6 months, babies will begin to use Voice Play – another early representative of literacy development. This is when babies begin to babble, make sounds, and mimic their caregivers.Between 6-12 months, your baby’s literacy development is running at full speed. This is the time when your baby’s brain is working on cognitive abilities and language development. For instance, your baby will begin to communicate with gestures and then words. During this same time, memory development has begun.
Therefore, it is important to prepare your baby to read from the time he/she is in the womb – if not that soon, then at least as soon as your little one arrives. During the first year of your baby’s life, the brain is developing at a rapid speed. And, you have the power to shape their minds! Think about it…
According to Dr. Marianella Casasola, Associate Professor in Cornell University, an infant learns his language very well before he speaks his language. It is the fact that the infants recognize words first before they speak them. Let’s look at an example.
Would you show an airplane to a baby and tell the baby that it is an airplane? If you can do this for objects, why can’t you do it to the word (which is an object after all) and say that is the word ‘airplane’. In the end, isn’t the concept the same, except one is a colored form and the other is a bit more boring and black and white? But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Other Ways to Stimulate Your Baby’s Brain for Early Reading
As we mentioned previously, your baby’s brain is developing at a significant rate. One of the reasons this is true is because the brain is being constantly stimulated. As your baby’s parent, you have the ability to choose some of these stimulation. How so?
Well, it is important to understand that there are good forms of stimulation and bad forms of stimulation. For example, as your baby’s eyesight is developing, it is easier for your baby to view large objects in black and white to easily distinguish between patterns. However, the toy makers fill the shelves with bright colored objects that will only cause negative stimulation.
In addition to Ways to Stimulate Your Baby’s Brain in the womb, there are several ways parents can encourage healthy brain stimulation after their baby has been born. First things first – babies need to feel affection. By simply loving your baby, you are increasing development of the brain wiring system.
In addition to love and meeting your baby’s basic needs, parents should read books aloud which stimulates vocabulary skills, listening, and memory. Playing orchestra music greatly accelerates brain development of the children in areas such as language skills and reading acquisition.
What the Critics Can Teach You (and Your Best Defense)
Unfortunately, there will be those who doubt your baby can read. In fact, there are some who think you should just leave your baby alone.
These individuals believe babies learn best through free exploration rather than formal instruction. So, when you claim you are trying to teach your baby to read, you may run up against someone who questions your approach.
While it’s true that most babies cannot learn phonics (you should never expect that), there are plenty of steps every parent should take to ensure they babies learn to read as early as possible, as discussed in this post.
Again, we want to emphasize that while a baby cannot read, a baby can develop a love for the written word, which will better equip your baby to learn how to read when the time is right (though no one can predict when that time will come).
So, how should you handle your critics?
Get Rid of Naysayers Once and For All
Ultimately, do not listen to those naysayers who say that teaching babies this way is detrimental to their well-being. You, the parent, are the ultimate judge.
Your job as a parent is to put in the effort with your baby without expecting the results at a certain time.
If you get a positive response from your baby and it feels right to you, why listen to the ones who discourage you from preparing your baby to read?
Consider how potty training babies is another topic that people find debatable – yet it is commonly practiced in other countries. While I did not try to potty train my baby, I know that it is possible if done right. I’ve seen the results. Just like others can see my baby can read.
So …. Why not develop a love of the written word right from the start as opposed to later?
Never let naysayers prevent you from doing something that is best for your baby’s education and future. What matters is if it feels right to you and your baby.
Before We Go…
There is a good chance that your baby will find the written text amusing and intriguing. If done in the right manner, you are instilling a love of learning and written word from an early age.
It’s actually easier to teach a baby to read than a 3-year-old. Why? Because babies lack the resistance to say no to learning.
Whatever you teach your child as a baby will be ‘natural’ to your child as he/she grows. Teaching children from a natural and loving space makes all the difference in preparing them for the world of the written word.
Nida A. is the founder and creator of the Little Champion Reader product line.
She is passionate about early learning and loves helping parents use the right tool to teach their children to read early.