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Is It Possible to Learn to Read Through Play?

learn to read

For some children, learning to read is a very demanding or difficult process which can generate feelings of frustration and rejection towards reading in the future. In many cases, this is due to the education system trying to rush them by prioritizing the academic schedule rather than the child’s own maturity. Not all children are ready to learn to read at the same time, and they do not all need to practice for the same amount of time.

What is Reading?

Reading refers to the process of decoding text and making sense of it within a cultural context.

What Previous Skills Do I Need to Learn to Read?

The necessary skills for the process of reading and writing develop gradually during the first few years of life. Those skills need to be full developed in order for children to be able to make the cognitive leap to learn how to read.

  • Know the language and have a rich vocabulary.
  • Have good phonological discrimination (word sounds).
  • Auditory memory.
  • Visual-motor integration.
  • Good spatial and lateral orientation.
  • Fine motor skills.

Some Reading and Pre-reading Methods

Depending on the child’s age there are many reading methods to choose from. In this post, I have chosen to focus on reading during early learning. My perspective and approach are from a neurodevelopmental point of view. In other words, following the clues that the child’s neurological, physical and emotional maturity give me, or how their brain is learning at the current stage.

In my experience, I know that we learn to talk and live together in a globalized way, basically by modeling one another. No one places us at a desk and explains how to talk, walk, or understand things in a sequential and logical way. We just do it. Up until 36-48 months of age, the brain learns in a global way. After that, hemispheric specialization and lateral dominance begin to become further defined. There are some children that stay in the global period longer and they need more time before moving on to the next stage. Most notably if there were maturity, physical or sensory problems (that are not necessarily serious).

This is why, at this stage, it is not advisable to learn to read. However, if it is done it must be taught using a globalized method.

Global Reading Method

One of the educational methods that I have enjoyed the most with younger children (ages 0 to 3) is the Doman Global Reading Method because it perfectly fits their needs. They don’t even realize that they’re reading and this does not impact the maturation process in other areas.

Other advantages:

  • It improves vocabulary and helps to structure information by categories.
  • Learning is effortless and takes up very little time.
  • It can be done digitally.
  • Children learn using two senses: sight and hearing.
  • The contents are varied and can be focused on the child’s environment which makes it very motivating.

Phonological Method

This method is used in many schools beginning at age 4, and is accompanied by gestures for each of the phonemes in a word. It is a phonetic system that helps children to associate sounds with letters and thus, link words. It has been proven to be quite successful and is also used with children who have learning difficulties.

Traditional Syllabic Method

This is traditionally used in schools starting at age 5.

Activities to Learn to Read Through Playing at Home

Early Childhood and Preschool (ages 3-5)

  • Look for foam letters to use in the bathtub. It is really fun to find the letters for family members’ names – search for them with a strainer and stick them to the walls. Magnetic letters to use on the refrigerator are also a good idea.
  • Mold letters using mud or clay. They look great when stuck onto a wire, spelling out a child’s name for a sign on their bedroom door.
  • Walk the shape of letters written on the floor.
  • Draw letters in flour or sand.
  • Use molds with different letters.
  • Write letters using Legos, clothespins, seeds or toothpicks.
  • Sing songs that have onomatopoeia with letters.
  • Listen to stories orally and without pictures. This is especially important because it stimulates a child’s imagination and internal visualization. If they are able to imagine what they hear, then it will be easier for them to understand what they read by making mental representations of phrases as they learn how to read.

Kindergarten (ages 5-6)

  • Make calligrams.
  • Ball games with words.
  • Make rhymes.
  • Word searches.

At Smartick we know how important reading comprehension is in general, as well as for mathematics. Our sessions for younger children have audio recordings of the questions so that they can work independently and see what they are hearing written out which certainly helps them to start reading.

We encourage you to introduce reading to your little ones through play.

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BS Communicative Disorders & BA Spanish from the University of Rhode Island.
Master’s in International Education from the Universidad de Alcalá– Instituto Franklin.
She has worked as a teacher in three different countries and is now a Translator on the Content Creation Team at Smartick and helps to adapt content for blog posts.
As a native Rhode Islander she loves any activity on the water and when she’s not working you can find her traveling, kickboxing, or trying out a new recipe.
Casey Aubin

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