The Best Way to Teach Your Child to Read

Let’s imagine that you studied the clarinet as a child. You attended a weekly lesson, thirty minutes long. In between lessons, you practiced at home to make progress before the next lesson. Your amount of home practice determined what kind of progress you made after each clarinet lesson.

The Reading Lesson, by Emile Munier (19th c.)
The Reading Lesson, by Emile Munier (19th c.)

This is the best way to teach a child to read, too. Home practice makes all the difference. I know that some teachers ask children to read twenty minutes a night, but many fluent readers easily read for an hour or more. If your child is a struggling reader, several short sessions may be better. Think of twenty minutes as a minimum amount, rather than a maximum.

Also, there’s no magic script to use to help your child become a good reader. It’s more important that you spend time with your child and talk about the book before, during, and after reading. Try reading aloud to him, and then listen to him read aloud to you. Listen to audio books together and let your mind illustrate them.

Part of teaching a child to read is to create an environment loaded with print. That’s what teachers do, and in your child’s classroom you see words, poems, songs, and stories on the walls, on shelves, even hanging from the ceiling. It’s not about decoration as much as it is the best way to teach reading.

Still Life with French Novels and a Rose, Vincent Van Gogh (1887)
Still Life with French Novels and a Rose, Vincent Van Gogh (1887)

Likewise, think about where you keep print in your home. Are books, magazines, newspapers, and library books readily available? Using a Kindle or Nook is great, but children need to touch, feel, manipulate, and enjoy all the sensory pleasures of reading a physical book.

As for learning the clarinet, remember the old joke:

Q.  “What’s the best way to get to Carnegie Hall?”

A.  “Practice, practice, practice!”


Music for Trust, Focus, and Clarity

My children attended a high school that encouraged its students to listen to music if it helped them focus on their work. Neither ear buds, nor phones, nor iPods were banned.

Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

I like this philosophy of beginning with trust. It shows both faith in a student’s ability to make appropriate choices, and then values the student’s choice.

Do you see the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin's score? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Note the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin’s score.(Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

Students who were distracted by music received help or support depending on their needs. The teachers’ overarching goal was to help students learn what worked best and helped them concentrate.

For me, it depends on what the task is, so I adjust my environment accordingly. Favorite musical soundtracks, jazz, or early music are some of what I use. Today, I offer Frédérik Chopin’s (1810-1849) Prelude No. 15 in D-flat Major, also known as the “Raindrop.”  How does this piece work for you?