5 myths about learning to read

By ABC Reading Eggs

The creators of ABC Reading Eggs dispel some common myths about reading acquisition in children.

Learning to read is one of the biggest milestones your child will ever achieve. It gives them important skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives, and lays the foundation for future success in learning and growing as individuals.

When it comes to learning to read, there are many different opinions on how it should be done. But while we all want what’s best for our kids, some misconceptions can actually cause more harm than good. Here are five of the most common myths about learning to read.   

1. My child is ‘not ready’ to start learning

Every child is unique and learns differently. Some kids learn best while sitting down and giving their full attention to the task at hand. Others benefit from moving about, getting their hands dirty and bouncing from task to task.

If your child can’t sit still during story time, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not ready to learn to read. Children are constantly learning through daily activities, engagement and play. Learning doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, the earliest stages of learning to read can be presented as playful and enjoyable activities, such as singing nursery rhymes, playing language games like ‘I Spy’, reading aloud daily, and using fun online education programs like ABC Reading Eggs.

2. Kids practice their reading enough at school

Like any complicated skill, reading requires regular practice. It’s important for children to read at home on a daily basis. Research shows a phenomenon in many schools around the world known as the ‘Matthew effect’. The term comes from a line in the Bible that refers to the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. The same applies to children who enter school and begin learning literacy skills. Over time, the gap between children who have developed strong literacy skills and those who have not widens more and more.

Parents play the most important role in their child’s reading journey. Regular reading time outside of school is essential in helping your child become a confident reader who reads for both meaning and enjoyment.

3. It’ll happen on its own

Probably one of the most commonly held myths about reading acquisition is that learning to read is a ‘natural’ process, and will happen on its own. Learning to read is different from acquiring spoken language; children need proper instruction in various reading skills and strategies, like learning letter-sound relationships and how to sound out words. That doesn’t mean it can’t be taught in a fun way, though it’s important to remember that learning foundational reading skills is crucial in helping your child become a successful reader.

4. Kids will ‘get it’ once they start

Similar to the belief that learning to read comes naturally, the view that kids eventually ‘click’ once they start reading and recognising words as whole pieces of language is false. Research shows that this ‘top down’ method of instruction doesn’t work because children are taught to guess from pictures and context as the first strategy for reading an unknown word.

All children benefit from direct instruction in phonics skills, which is considered a ‘bottom up’ approach to learning to read. Research strongly shows that children who are taught to recognise phonemes (the individual sounds in words) as part of reading instruction are more likely to develop stronger abilities in decoding words. Children who are exposed to this type of systematic instruction develop these skills faster than children who don’t.

5. My child hates reading! 

Maybe you’ve heard something along the lines of “I hate reading!” wailed across the hallway, or maybe it’s strongly implied with a pained groan and roll of the eyes. Yes, it’s easy to think that some children will never learn to love reading, but there’s always an underlying cause, and often a simple solution.

Children can be put off reading for a variety of different reasons, such as reading difficulties or a fear of being made fun of. It’s important to pinpoint the cause of your child’s frustration. Are the books you’re reading too boring or too hard? At what point in the book does your child give up?

Once you have identified the root cause, it’s easier to solve the problem as to why your child dislikes reading. You can try letting them pick their own books (including comic books or riddles), choosing the right books using the five finger rule, or getting creative with fun, hands-on reading activities, like following a recipe to bake a delicious cake or reading clues during a scavenger hunt. Learning to read should be a fun and highly motivating experience for young kids.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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