When and how can I teach my toddler to read?
The truth is, right now you really can’t.
Children usually don’t start reading before the age of 5 or 6, and for good reason. Researchers believe that until that age, most children have not yet formed certain neural connections that allow them to decode printed letters and then mentally combine them to make words.
A few children are able to read earlier, but most of them just pick it up; they don’t learn through direct instruction.
The key to reading readiness during the toddler years is indirect instruction: This involves introducing your child to books and print in a way that gets him excited about the stories they contain.
Basically, your job is to show him that books are important — and fun! The best way to accomplish this is by reading to him.
As early as 6 months, babies enjoy looking at simple board books with pictures and labels. Between the ages of 1 and 2, repetitive and rhyming books are most likely to capture your child’s interest, and between 2 and 3, he’ll begin to enjoy books with more text and simple story lines.
Be sure to hold the book so your toddler can see the pictures easily, and point to things that seem to capture his attention when you read to him.
Alphabet books can help toddlers learn to isolate letters within a stream of print, and many children can identify their own name by the time they’re 3.
A lot of toddlers can also identify the signs and logos they see around them. You may groan inwardly when your toddler chirps “McDonald’s!” as you pass the Golden Arches, or asks for ice cream when you pass his favorite ice cream parlor, but this is an important step in learning to read — it shows he understands that written words represent things and ideas.
If your toddler’s listening to stories and looking at books and has some concept that printed words include letters, he’s well on his way to learning how to read”.