ASK MOM

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by Mary Follin and Erika Guerrero

Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine

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ON READING, WRITING AND KIDS

by | Sep 26, 2023

7 tips for teaching a fidgety child how to read.

Children want to learn how to read, but let’s face it, sometimes it feels like work. In the early lessons, there are some basics that need to be covered before the real fun begins. Learning all the sounds of the alphabet can take a long time for some kids, but until they know those, they don’t get to enjoy sounding out words and, well, reading.

When you are working with your child (on anything, for that matter!), does she wiggle a lot? Does he want to talk about what he found on the bottom of his shoe the other day? Does she look at everything but what you are trying to show her?

If so, good! Your child is perfectly normal. And fortunately, teaching reading with phonics is simple, straight-forward and works like building blocks. Over time, even the most distracted pupil can learn how to read.

7 tips to help you teach a child to read.

But until that happens, here are 7 tips for keeping your child focused on what you are trying to do:

  1. Keep it short. Three to five minutes a day, three to five days a week is the maximum amount of time you will want to spend on lessons. This will help make sure your child stays engaged during each lesson. (As an added bonus, you will always leave your young pupil wanting more!)
  2. Praise your child. Reward her with hugs and applause, even when things seem to be moving slowly. There are certain personality-types that will do anything for praise. If your child is one of those, hang a chart on the wall and put a gold star on it each time you finish a lesson. Take her to tea when she earns a week’s worth of stars.
  3. Be creative. Draw a picture of a word after she reads it. Or balloons when she gets her sounds right.
  4. Get moving. To keep your child physically engaged, let him blow bubbles or throw a ball each time he gets a word right.
  5. Make it cozy. Ideally, lesson time is on-your-lap time. If your child doesn’t get enough of this on most days, spending time on your lap will help keep him still. (Not too much time, though. You’ve got a short window before your child will want to get down. See #1!)
  6. Check your child’s vitals. Make sure your child is comfortable, well-fed and rested before you begin each lesson.
  7. Give it up. If it becomes too much of a struggle, stop and pick up where you left off next time. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to set the materials aside for a few weeks—or months. Take your cue from your child. She might be letting you know that she’s not ready yet.

You CAN teach your child to read—even fidgety ones.

In any reading program, the lessons really must stick to a 5 minute limit to accommodate the short attention span of a small child. (Or a busy mom!) One of the biggest downfalls is the overzealousness of the parent.  It’s tempting to keep pushing everything along so that you can start seeing results.

If this is how you feel, please don’t rush your child. There are no deadlines. Try to remember that each lesson is a time of enrichment, not measured success. ‘Showing off’ your child’s reading skills to friends and family may put undue pressure on her. Believe me, as your child’s confidence grows, she will proudly display on her own what she has learned!

Enjoy!

Mary Follin

Add to these 7 tips! I’d love to hear how you have helped your child sit still. Leave a comment.

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About Mary Follin

Mary is the author of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective  with parents of younger children. 

ABOUT ERIKA GUERRERO

Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.

ABOUT SUZANNE JOHNSON

Suzanne Johnson, mother of five children and grandmother of eight, is an illustrator, book cover designer, and author of the Realms of Edenocht series.

ETHYR

M.P. Follin
​Gertrude Warner Book Award
Moonbeam Children's Book Award

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