How to teach your child to read
When we started DaddyRead.com (2007), we focused heavily on the read-aloud experience and its benefits. Based on personal experience, extensive reading aloud to a young child will help your child grow up to be a deep, avid reader. However, children do need to be taught the mechanics of reading (called decoding), and unfortunately, you can not count on school to teach your child this important skill. It is best if they learn this one on one from a caregiver.
Some reading specialists claim that dyslexia is not a real syndrome: Growing a Reader from Birth: Your Child's Path from Language to Literacy by Diane McGuinness. McGuinness suggests that poor reading instruction is the primary reason why children are labeled dyslexic?
When professionals, who earn their living dealing with dyslexia, diagnose someone, the criteria is basically that they have normal intelligence, are otherwise healthy, except in one aspect: reading. Is it likely that someone's brain is only damaged when it comes to reading? Possible but I would venture unlikely. Isn't it more likely that they were not taught to read properly and developed bad habits, which reinforced further bad habits, which make it very difficult to read efficiently?
So if a school labels your child dyslexic, please don't think your child is brain damaged. It probably means it is time for you to take charge.
Transform the caregiver into a reading specialist
It is quite easy and you will only have to read a few books. The first one is Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness. Now, just read this book. Do not try to teach your child from it. If you have more patience than I have, go ahead, but I think the book will open up your eyes. I have a PhD in mathematics, have been reading all my life, and I learned so much about how reading really works from this book. For example, the long "a" sound in make, think how many ways you can spell that long "a" sound.
If you child is in the 3 year old range, then you should start with Jolly Phonics. It comes from the UK and is sometimes hard to find on Amazon. A few people are selling it for $2000, but don't pay more than 50 dollars for it. You can also try the publisher Jolly Learning.
The two books above are Phonics books. The Phonics method of learning to read goes back around 200 years (in the US) and fallen in and out of favor. Just like the Common Core Reform movement of today, reading instruction was reformed and the Whole Language approach became dominant. The idea behind Whole Language is you would read books to your child, and the child would sit next to you and see the sentences and words as you read them, and [magically] learn to read. It is almost laughable. Kids learn to talk without instruction, they argued, so they can learn to read the same way? Now, most kids will not pick up reading without some formal instruction on the sounds letters make, so even in Whole Language schools, they would have to teach some Phonics, probably informally.
Phonics teaches the child how to sound out words in a clear, logical way. For example, consider the following words that would be part of an exercise: ate, mate, bate, gate, hate, late. Phonics teaches the long "a" sound explains that one way to make this sound is by having a-e, that is "a" with an "e" nearby. Also, a-i, makes the same long "a" sound, as in maid, laid.
It is much easier to pick up the patterns of reading when it is explained in the phonics method. Phonics teaches one how to both decode words and how to spell. It gives rules that make sense (at least most of the time) and it is the easiest way to learn to read. My primary recommendation, and the best use of $20 dollars is Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling by Dolores G. Hiskes. This $20 book could put the billion dollar dyslexia industry out of business.
If your child is 3-4 you may want to start with Jolly Phonics so you can teach them all the basic letter sound. If you child old enough and knows the basic sounds of the letters, then go with Phonics Pathways: Clear Steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling. Have you child do all the reading, page by page, and do not leave a page until the child masters the current page. No writing is required. Don't let your child progress unless they can read the current page perfectly.
What happens to your child's brain when they learn to read?
The child's brain actually rewires. It is called neuroplasticity. Suppose you read the word "afterwards" for the first time, as a beginning reading. Phonics would have you blend af-t-ur-war-d-s, and then you would recognize the word. At first an inefficient part of the brain is doing the blending and making the small sounds. However, and it you practice correctly, your brain will rewire itself so that the blending skill is much more efficient, much quicker. You won't have to consciously blend the sounds. Phonics gives one the small stepping stones which can lead to reading fluently. A whole sentence approach doesn't allow one to master small easy skills. It is better to read a very easy page 50 times perfectly, than a harder page with mistakes. You want your child to read the easy pages fast and with 100 percent accuracy.
What age to start?
By the age of three start Jolly Phonics or some other early phonics system, like Hooked on Phonics. There has been research that shows Jolly Phonics is effective. So try them first. When you finish Jolly, go directly to Phonics Pathways. By the time you finish that book, your child will be reading on the second grade level, and you can go on to Frog and Toad and the preschool read aloud books on this site ( Early Read Aloud Books ). Don't forget, keep reading aloud until your child won't let you.