Building Early Literacy Skills
Before your child begins to read, he must know what the words mean, and he needs to have a sense of the grammatical structure and flow of language. Because children with dyslexia tend to be highly visual learners, they often miss the finer points of language as they are growing up. Your child may seem to speak well and easily understand what you say, but most oral communication is also accompanied by gestures and other visual clues; conversation involves an exchange of ideas often communicated in short bursts or partial sentences, and adults are careful to use a simplified vocabulary, with short words and active sentence structure, when talking to children. So, your child may very well grow up with very strong communication skills but nonetheless have weak language skills. The best thing you can do to help your child to prepare for reading is to help boost both understanding of language and encourage development of stronger listening skills.
Read to Your Preschooler
You should begin reading to your child as early as possible, and continue the practice for as long as your child is willing to sit still and listen to you. When you read aloud, you help your child develop a love of literature; you model the process of reading for her and you expose her to an enriched vocabulary and more sophisticated and complex language structures. Even after your child begins to read on her own, you will be able to enhance her enjoyment of reading and improve motivation by continuing to read aloud, allowing her to share in reading some selections along the way.
Read from a variety of children's books, and include classic stories such as
When reading a book where the print is large, point at each word as you read. This will help your child learn that reading goes from left to right and understand how the printed words correspond to the words you speak. Answer any questions your child has about the words and letters.
As you read, take the time to discuss the meanings of new words and to point out an interesting use of phrasing or elements such as rhyme or alliteration. Encourage your child to talk about the events of the story and to predict what may happen next. Read some books written in verse to focus your child's attention on the rhythm of language as well as rhyme. Choose some books with repetitive phrases or themes; read your child's favorite books over and over again. Help make the stories come alive for your child. If you can instill a love of literature, your child's strong motivation to read will help overcome difficulties that may be the result of dyslexia.
Limit your young child's exposure to TV, and monitor what he watches. Unfortunately, TV does very little to help small children with language, and too many hours in front of the TV can undermine development of strong language skills. A small child is much more likely to pay attention to images on screen and follow the action by focusing on what the actors or cartoon characters do, rather than attending to dialogue. The rapid pace and frequent scene changes, along with frequent commercial interruptions, conditions your child to respond quickly to stimulus, which does little to help lengthen attention span. Since he cannot talk to the actors on screen, your child does not get any of the feedback or practice that he might have with ordinary conversation with an adult or older child.