How to Teach Your Baby to Read

Teaching your baby to read could or is becoming more and more of a high priority for parents now as it becomes clear that learning to read at a young age offers numerous advantages for the child once he or she begins school. Studies have consistently found that teaching a baby to read and helping children develop phonemic awareness well before entering school can significantly improve their development in reading and spelling. However, when it comes to teaching babies to read, there are two main teaching methods.

These two main methods of teaching a baby or child to read are the whole language method, and the phonics and phonemic awareness method (the phonetic approach), which should be the preferred teaching method in helping children learn to read. Some prefer the whole language method, while others use the phonics approach, and there is also the educator that use a mix of different approaches. With the Look-say approach of whole language learning, a child begins with memorizing sight words and then taught various strategies for figuring out the text from various clues.

The whole language method produces inaccurate and poor readers compared to students of the phonetic approach. Using the whole word approach, English is being taught as an ideographic language such as Chinese. One of the biggest arguments from whole-language advocates is that teaching a baby to read using phonics breaks up the words into letters and syllables, which have no actual meaning, yet they fail to acknowledge the fact that once the child is able to decode the word, they are able to actually READ that entire word, pronounce it, and understand its meaning. So in practicality, it’s a very weak argument. English is an alphabetic system, and unlike Chinese, it is not an ideograph like Chinese characters, and should not be taught using an idiographic approach.

I always say that if your baby can speak, then you can begin to teach your baby to read. I won’t mention any names here, but I think most parents are probably aware of one very popular “reading” program, which is a whole word approach. Using this method, your baby simply learns to memorize the words without actually reading the words. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that teaching your baby to read using the whole word approach is an effective method. In fact, there are large numbers of studies which have consistently stated that teaching children to read using phonemic awareness is a highly effective method.

Teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly improves their reading more than instruction that lacks any attention to phonemic awareness. – a statement made by the National Reading Panel [1]

I do think that the debate on the effectiveness of teaching a baby to read using either the whole language or phonics method is solved via the statements made by the National Reading Panel. They reviewed over 1,960 different studies to make their conclusions.

In fact, someone I heard about, while his wife was pregnant with their first child, the father began doing extensive research on the subject on how to teach his baby to read – after birth, of course. Like most parents, he also came across the popular whole word teaching approach being heavily marketed. Seeing the infomercials got him quite excited actually, seeing the babies on TV “reading”. But after trying it out, it occurred to him that their baby wasn’t actually “reading”, but actually “memorizing”, and he thought to myself, how are my children supposed to read newer, and more complicated words as they grow older without an appropriate method of decoding those words? This is where his long and extensive research into phonics and phonemic awareness began.

After many hours of research and learning as much as he could, he felt comfortable enough with their simple phonemic awareness teaching method, that his wife and himself began giving brief 3 to 5-minute lessons to their daughter, aged 2 years and 8 months. Within just a few short weeks, their daughters reading ability (and I mean actual reading ability, not memorization) was astounding, even for the father as the parent who gave the reading instructions. Friends and family alike were simply flabbergasted at what their daughter was capable of reading at just 2 years and 11 months. There is a video that was recorded, if you haven’t already seen it, I’ll provide you a link to it via my emails (newsletter) I send out. So, signup now via my Facebook page!

I simply can’t imagine this kind of progress possible with the whole word approach – just think of the tens and hundreds of words a young child would have to memorize!

In the same video, you’ll learn more about their simple, effective, step-by-step program. So, please signup for my newsletter/emails. You’ll also get additional content not included on my blog.