Helping A Child Learn to Read — 24 to 36 Months
During the time from 24 to 36 months, your child is starting to blossom. Exploration of the larger world and how it works becomes a focus of attention. Clearly identifying himself as a separate entity is another area of exploration. In terms of language development your child will be rapidly expanding his vocabulary and working on developing correct grammar and the concept of time in his speech.
The average spoken vocabulary at 24 months is 300 words and by 36 months the average spoken vocabulary is 1000 words. The receptive vocabulary (words understood but not spoken) is much larger than the spoken vocabulary (this is true throughout life but particularly apparent in the young). In addition to adding new words, your child is also listening carefully to the order in which words are used in a sentence (grammar). A child’s first attempts at communicating with others around them will be short selections of words, primarily nouns with some verbs. The other parts of speech like adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions will start to show up during this 12 month period of development.
Your child will also start to understand the concept of time. This is a difficult concept since it is abstract and can not be touched or handled which is still the child’s primary means of learning about something. The reasoning mind which can understand abstract concepts does not develop until age six. Nevertheless, your child will start to grapple with the concept of time by wanting to know the order or sequence of events. First we brush our teeth, and then we wash our face, and then we dry our face.
Use the following practical tips to assist your child in developing language-related skills during this period.
1. Continue to talk to your child directly and clearly. Use complete sentences. Use lots of descriptive words to introduce more vocabulary. Ask your child questions in the same way you would in a conversation with another listener. Quizzing your child is not effective because it is basically boring to the child.
Dad: We are going to the park today after your Mommy leaves for work. What would you like to do at the park?
Your Child: Slide.
Dad: Oh, you would like to slide down the slide? The park has a fun slide, doesn’t it?
2. When your child makes mistakes, do not correct them. Negative feedback does not work. Instead, rephrase what your child said to let her know you understood her and give her an example of correct grammar.
Your Child: Bear me.
Mom: Oh, you would like to have your bear. It’s nice and cuddly, isn’t it? Do you want your blanket too?
By asking questions, you continue the conversation and keep your child involved. You also give your child more words by using grown-up sentences.
3. Tell stories about the parent’s, pet’s, or child’s day. Invite your child to join in the telling.
You: Let me tell you a story about Lara (insert your child’s name here). Lara woke up this morning in her own little bed and she was happy. She got out of bed and she (pause here to see if your child will fill in her next activity) went to find her mother to say “Good Morning, Mom!” And then she went back to her bedroom and put on her clothes for the day. First on was her shirt, and then her pants, and finally her socks.
Children love to hear simple stories about themselves and others in their households. Giving your child opportunities to join in the telling of the stories helps them concentrate on the timing. In what order did the events occur? Also tell stories of “big” events in your child’s life to help them remember it. Children’s memories at this point in their development are fragile. You can strengthen their memories by retelling the event as a story.
You: Do you remember last Sunday when we went to church with Grandpa and Grandma? After church, we went to a pancake breakfast. I really like pancakes, how about you? Grandma was wearing a big hat and pretty red shoes. And after we ate pancakes, do you remember where we went?
Your Child: Tree.
You: That’s right, we went to the park and took photographs under the big tree, didn’t we? Would you like to see the pictures we took?
4. Continue to read to your child regularly. Try to have two short reading sessions a day. A child this young does not have the connections yet in their brain to remember story sequencing well. So while you may have tired of reading “Green Eggs and Ham” by Doctor Seuss, for your child it is fresh each time. Follow the words in book with your finger as you read. Have your child hold the book and turn the pages as this activity will make them aware of correct orientation and use of the book.
5. Put magnetic letters on your refrigerator. Start introducing letters by saying the sound and then showing the symbol which represents the sound. This should be a very casual event. No need to push this. Let it happen naturally. You are creating awareness of letters. Let your child handle a letter to feel its shape. Watch your child while he is playing with the letters to make sure he does not swallow the magnets. Keep the letters above child-level when you are not supervising. Children’s wooden blocks with the letters carved in the sides can be an alternative or addition to magnetic letters.
6. Make regular trips to the library. Let your child participate in Story Hour. Allow them to select two or three books to be read during the next week.
7. Let your child see you read. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes a day for your own personal reading. Right after your child’s nap is good time. Explain to your child that you are reading and will be with them shortly. They can “read” too or play quietly with a toy. By setting the example, you are demonstrating the importance of reading.
These seven tips above will continue to build your child’s vocabulary, give her the rudiments of grammar, begin the understanding of concepts of sequence and time, and start the identification of letters. By applying these tips you will be helping your child along the path to literacy.