The Benefits of Teaching Children to Read

— Written By Shirley Rush and last updated by

The benefits of teaching your child to read early and well are the key to your child’s academic future. The main reason is that reading is at the heart of all formal education. When a child is taught to read, the process of learning has a profound influence on the entire functioning and development of the brain.

The human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age five than during any other subsequent period in a child’s life. For a child’s brain to become highly developed for learning, repeated experiences are essential. Connections become stronger and more efficient through repeated use.

When parents are talking, singing and reading to their children at an early age, existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new links are formed. You can play a critical role by implanting not only reading skills and ability but also more importantly, instilling a lifelong love of learning and reading.

Five steps to teach your child/children to read:

  1. Read to your child

Teaching your child to read is truly a process that begins at infancy. Parents should begin reading to their newborn within days of welcoming him home. Not only is this a special bonding time for the two of you, it instills in him a love for books.

  1.  Ask questions

Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to grasp what he is reading. While your child is a baby, ask him questions such as, “Do you see the dog?” while pointing at the picture of the dog. This will not only develop his vocabulary, it will also encourage him to interact with the book that he is reading. As he gets older, ask him to point to things in the book and make the noises of the animals he sees.

  1. Word Families

To put it simply, word families are words that rhyme. Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading. This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word. The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime.

  1. Decoding

Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.”  This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn’t the most important. Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes he is ready to begin putting words together.

  1. Sight Words

Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, the most common words in our written language, are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don’t follow the rules of phonics. These words must be memorized.

A child, who learns to read joyfully at home, at an early age, with a loving parent or caregiver, tends to grow in self-confidence and independence. Reading promotes greater maturity, increases discipline and lays the basis for moral literacy.

Early readers have the opportunity to relate to their peers on a more confident, more competent level as they are already being recognized for their superior accomplishments. Such experiences increase the child’s social status among peers as well as self-image and self-confidence.

For more information, contact Shirley Rush at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Center at 910-875-2162 or by email shirley_rush@ncsu.edu.