Many parents are concerned about making sure they start teaching their children to read early enough while others feel that children should be left alone to “be kids” and not forced to read at too early an age. Because of this, as well as the difference in children’s abilities, there is no fixed age that children are expected to start reading.
In general, there is a range of several years that children begin reading. Some kids start as early as age 2 or 3 and others don’t read until age 6 or 7. By second grade most kids have caught up to their peers, even if they started reading late. If your child is still struggling with reading in grade two or three then you should consider extra support to help bring their reading skills to the appropriate level.
If you want to ensure you child has a head start in reading and academic performance in general, perhaps a more important question is “when should I start teaching my child to read?”
When should I start teaching my child to read?
If you are interested in giving your child an early start in reading you can start teaching them before they begin school — as early as 2-3 years of age. Keep in mind that younger children will not progress as fast as older children. However, all children can learn quickly and will pick up reading concepts as you present them.
The age at which your child learns to read can have long term consequences in practically all academic areas of development. This is known as the Matthew Effect in reading.
The Matthew effect in reading
Studies show that children who learn to read early show improvements in cognitive, behavioral, and motivational abilities. These cognitive improvements lead to better performance in many academic areas. Conversely, children who are slow to learn how to read are also slower in the development of other cognitive skills which inhibit academic performance.
This is called the Matthew Effect in reading.
The more a child reads, the more of a positive effect it will have on their academic performance. The amount a child reads has an impact on multiple measures of vocabulary, general knowledge, spelling, and verbal fluency. Reading can even help compensate for modest levels of cognitive ability, enhance verbal intelligence, and make the reader smarter.
Vocabulary development in children
One of the benefits your child receives from reading is the development of their vocabulary. Many parents believe that vocabulary development happens at school. However, the truth is that parental support and at-home environment provide the ideal learning experience for literacy skills and vocabulary development. In fact, research has shown that most of a person’s vocabulary growth comes from reading and not oral language.
Even very young children who are not able to read on their own develop their vocabulary by being read to. Studies show that reading to a child greatly increases their vocabulary — more so than school. Studies also show that children’s books contain about 3 times more rare words than adult conversation or TV.
An improved vocabulary will further help your child in both their reading and writing skills. In addition, their ability to express themselves and communicate in general improves. This allows your child to interact with their peers and adults better and allows for a more rich academic experience.
As your child’s vocabulary knowledge increases, reading comprehension also increases. This is an important step towards greater understanding of the material being read as well as a move towards independent reading.
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