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Raising Readers: How I Taught My Two-Year Old Daughter to Read

Tips and strategies to help raise children to be readers and book lovers at an early age.

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How did you teach your two-year old daughter to read?

This is a question I’ve been asked several times over the past few months.  My answer is always the same…I didn’t.  I fully intended on teaching her how to read as I wanted to be the one to do it, but since she reads well on her own I may not even have to do this.

Not many people know that my daughter can read as it’s not something I go around telling others.  I’ve noticed sometimes people think you’re bragging or maybe even lying, when in fact you’re just happy and proud.  Therefore, only a handful of people have been privy to my daughter’s reading skills.

Education has always been extremely important to me.  When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Well, when I finally “grew up” I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead.  Perhaps some day I’ll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching.  For now, I’ll settle as being my children’s first teacher.

I knew even before I had children that I didn’t want to their learning left entirely up to the public school system.  I make it a point to supplement whatever they are learning in daycare or school with my own teachings by making it fun.

Here are some things that worked really well for us in helping my daughter to read:

  • Since birth, we’ve had a variety of books (from board books to picture books to easy reader books) and children’s magazines around the house that are easily accessible.
  • Talking to my daughter telling her what we were doing. “I’m putting your pink dress on you. Here it goes over your head. Now, let’s put on your socks. Here’s your left foot. On goes the white sock.”  You’d be surprised how much kids appreciate it when you talk to them about their daily activities.  Now, my daughter will often ask me, “What are we doing today, mommy?” and I tell her our plans for the day.
  • Starting at six months I used index cards and labeled furniture, toys, television, tables, mirrors, stairs, refrigerator, doors, etc. Nearly everything in our house was labeled and I would take the time to “read” the words as we walked by them.
  • Lots of exposure to the alphabet in the form of singing songs and reading alphabet books. We read the same ones over and over and over.  This also helped her learn the sounds each of the letters make.
  • Exposure to traditional nursery rhymes and poems in the form of books and songs.  I chose books that had lots of colored pictures, pointing out any objects and words as I read them.
  • Reading books aloud daily for at least 15 – 30 minutes since birth.  I keep several books in rotation each month reading them over and over again.  Then at the end of the month I pick out a new set of books to read for the next month.
  • Making frequent visits to the library.  We go weekly to pick out new books, for story time, playgroups, etc.
  • Teaching and practicing sign language since birth.  She knows several signs as well as the letters of the alphabet in sign language.
  • Doing sight word and alphabet activities together including craft projects.
  • Alphabet puzzles, alphabet mats, sandpaper letters, and alphabet foam letters from the Dollar Store.
  • Reading my own books in front of the kids.  The children see me reading often.

Around the age of 18 months I noticed my daughter had become smitten with the alphabet.  She was always singing the ABC song and she only wanted me to read her alphabet books.  By the age of two, (24 months) she could recite several sight words and started taking more of an interest in words and what they said.My daughter is now almost 3 years old (33 months) and she can read several easy reader books on her own.  At first, I thought she was just reciting the books we owned from memory because she knew them so well.  However, I realized that wasn’t the case when I started giving her easy reader books to read that she’d never seen before.  That’s when I realized…my baby can read!  She can actually read!  And I’m not talking just those beginner reading books that contain sentences like, “Pat sat on her mat” and “See the fox run.”I guess all my hard work is paying off.  I am raising readers!  Of course, she’s still very much in the beginning stages of reading, but she’s off to a great start!

Here are a few other things to note:

  • I try to foster a love of reading and books.
  • I try to take advantage of teachable moments no matter where we are: the grocery store, the library, driving in the car, the playground.
  • I do not try to push my own style of learning onto my daughter.  Instead, I notice what she responds to (i,e., music) and just go with it.
  • I do not drill my daughter with flash cards or worksheets.  I think flash cards and worksheets are great, but this is not my approach.
  • I do not pressure my daughter to learn.
  • I try to make things fun like a game so it doesn’t seem like a chore or a hassle.
  • I do not try to compartmentalize learning into just one time of the day.
  • I do not get upset if she doesn’t learn or understand something; instead I set it aside and try again another time usually in a couple of weeks.
  • I do not try to make my daughter sit still; instead, I keep learning active.  Our bodies are meant to be in motion.  I let my daughter get up and move around if she wants to.

I plan to follow this same approach with my 18-month old son.  He’s already showing signs of following in his sister’s footsteps.  I look forward to seeing if he learns to read on his own the same way my daughter did.   Your turn:  What has helped your child learn to read?  Feel free to let me know your tips in the comments.

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