How to teach a young child to read

Natasha asks: How can I get a 4-year-old to read?

Hi Natasha –

Most children don’t learn to read quite that young.  But my friend Handsome did.  So the one suggestion I can give you is what happened to him.  It was very simple.


First, when he was very very young, less than two years old, he had a babysitter who started teaching him the alphabet.  She taught him to sing it, and would show him the letters.  So by the time he was less than three, he knew the alphabet perfectly.


Then something happened that no one expected.  You see, Handsome always loved music.  And at that time, he had a record-player in his room that he’d listen to all the time.  His favorite records were of a folk singer named Burl Ives.  And around this time, his parents got a big set of Burl Ives records, that came with a book with all the lyrics printed out.  Now this wasn’t a children’s record at all, but he didn’t care.  He just loved it.  And as he’d listen to all the records, he’d stare at the lyrics of the songs in that book.  And before he was four, he could read them – and of course could then begin to read all sorts of other books too.


So to use that example, the key is, first, to help your child learn the basics of the alphabet.  Use the song, use books, use drawings, whatever works.  Just get that stuff into their head.  And then, listen.  Find what fascinates them.  Is it sports?  Great!  Help them read the sports page in the newspaper.  Is it dinosaurs?  Fantastic, get them spelling out the long names of all those monsters.  Of course the internet is a great help, since there’s easily-accessible information on just about everything there, so you can help them find stuff to read that will fascinate them.


Truly, my friend, the way to teach a child to read is to first teach yourself to read the child.  Once you’ve done that, the rest is… well… child’s play!





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