Reading is one of those fundamental skill sets that is necessary for growth and development. Words and language are all around us. We use reading to identify signs on buildings, in books, and so many other amazing places. Reading unlocks the doors of things impossible.
However, for some parents who have had challenges related to reading for most of their lives, reading and teaching one’s child how to read may be a scary process. Even with these challenges, parents who are dyslexic can help their early reader enjoy reading.
What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association, is a specific learning disorder that is brain based. For those with a diagnosis of dyslexia, it can make the open doors of reading hard.
Why you might ask? Dyslexia impacts one’s spelling, decoding, and/or ability to recognize words fluently. If you are a parent who has found reading to be difficult over the years, you know what it feels like emotionally to work hard to sound out words only to be corrected and say “try again” or “that is not right”. You know the mental anguish and toll it takes just to get a short sentence out with ease. You know this because this has been your life for many years. Now that you have a child or two, you are probably asking what next. What will this mean for my family when my child brings me his/her first book and says “Mommy/Daddy, read please.”
Read As Much As Possible
As a parent, you do your best to read as much as possible to your child knowing that at this young age, they are unable to determine if you are reading the information correctly. All they know is that their awesome mommy or daddy is showing them pictures and reading words with amazing voice intonations that makes reading books fun and exciting.
Yet as you continue the process of teaching your child how to be an early reader, there is a part of you that might ask, “Will my child be dyslexic like me?” In my experience working as a school psychologist, this is not hard or fast Yes or No answer. I have seen cases where a child does not have issues with reading and other cases where reading is challenging. Yet in both cases, it really comes down to parents thinking through creative ways to teach reading during those critical early preschool years.
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There are some parents who may be reading this or that you may know are saying, I’m just not ready because I don’t want my child to (1) know that I have a reading problem and/or (2) I don’t want to be the cause of my child not being able to read during those critical years.
Guess what? You will not. The fact that you recognize that this is hard for you is the first step to helping your child learn how to read. Think about it. When you first learned how to tie your shoes or possibly ride a bike, it came with trial and error. The more you practice the process, the easier it became. The same is true with teaching your early reader. The more you practice using those books that you are comfortable with, the easier it will be to model those reading skills to your child.
Activities for Early Readers
Here are a few suggestions to help you would be to understand that with early readers, it is more about the pictures and creating the story line compared to the actual words on the pages. Being animated in your speaking while pointing to the pictures is a great way to teach your child how to read. Another idea may be to have your child share with you what they think will happen in the story and what might happen next based on the pictures alone. Depending on the age of the child and the storyline, you can take the story and (1) play an easy game of charades; (2) pretend to be in a theater production; or (3) make a song out of it. Just another fun way to make reading come alive when the words on the page may be challenging.
Other activities that may be fun for you and your early reader may be to take a walk through a park or on a trail and identify the names of objects that are seen. Another idea might be to add music, as I mentioned before. Music is another way to help your child learn how to expand their vocabulary. You may do this by researching the lyrics online and helping your early reader pair the visual words of the lyrics with what they hear. Using sign language is another way to expand your child’s vocabulary as is pairs physical movements with concrete words. If you want a little extra fun and don’t mind a little mess at home, things like adding shaving cream on the table or having your budding artist write words while drawing or painting pictures is another way to teach reading. There are many ways to expand your child’s vocabulary besides reading a book.
As I always tell the families whom I serve in schools, you have to do what works best for you and your family. There are not any hard or fast rules to teaching reading.
The greatest gift a parent can provide a young child is to show them the many ways that reading can be fun.
Find what works best for you and your family and just do it!
April J. Lisbon, Ed.D. is a workplace autism advocate. She helps organizations unlock the benefits of hiring and retaining talented individuals on the autism spectrum. Dr. Lisbon is the parent of a high achieving teen on the autism spectrum. She has over 20 plus years as a PK-12 school psychologist working with individuals from ages 3-22. Dr. Lisbon has been seen in the Washington Post, NBC News, Business Insider, Forbes, Autism Parenting Magazine, The TODAY Show Parenting, Family Circle Magazine, and several other national and international media outlets.
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