I often see teachers and parents raising questions on how to teach their students/children to read. The fact is these questions are often raised when the children are already in school and having problems with reading. Let me share my experience with you…
As a homeschooler who homeschools all her children, the best advice I can give for teaching young children how to read, is to read to your children at an early age since they are babies. Of course, this requires the parents to actively take part in the chinuch of their children, and not leave them off at a school at age 5-6 to start learning how to read.
Reading is a natural skill that can be acquired easily by toddlers, much like talking, just by being interested in their surroundings – seeing siblings read, seeing parents read, etc.
Children have an amazing ability to learn a lot of things simply by emulation and being in a loving environment, where parents/caregivers spend quality time with them. Children also have a natural inquisitive mind – they want to know what’s written on a cereal box, in a magazine, on the computer, etc.
One can introduce reading through play with a toddler. A very popular activity with my toddlers is a 32 letter Alef Beis wooden puzzle – a very effective introduction to the HEbrew Alphabet through interactive play. I am always amazed that the letter י and the letter ש are the first few letters that my babies learned to recognize instinctively. Both letters are in Hashem’s names.
So parents, don’t wait until your child is at school age before you introduce your children to reading. Similarly don’t miss out on the opportunities to hear your baby’s first words, or see your baby’s first steps as well, if you can. And take all those pictures and home movies of your children as often as you can, because as we grow in age, we can hardly remember what our grown children look like when they were babies.