Teaching kids to read using all of their senses

Learning: teach your child to read through their dominant sense.
Learning: teach your child to read through their dominant sense. Photo: Getty Images

The process of learning to read involves a great many different skills and various mental processing milestones. It isn't as simple as knowing ones letters and being able to recite by rote it also requires pattern recognition, cognitive understanding and maturity. By teaching your child through their dominant sense, you will enable your child to have a deeper understanding of the process and therefore master the skills necessary faster.

Taste and smell children need to feel safe and nurtured in order to learn. Associating words with people or things they care about will elevate their interest. Writing letters to friends and family and in turn, receiving them, shows them that reading can be a bonding experience. If using flash cards, start with words relating to emotion, add the visual then have them act out the word. Labelling foods, and having them help with shopping and cooking, by writing the shopping list or reading a simple recipe, will give them a sense of sequence and improve their pattern skills.

Visual children will love the order of the alphabet. Everything has its place, even letters! They will respond well to flash cards, writing on a chalkboard or cutting out letters from magazines and arranging them into words. Writing a word next to a matching picture, or labeling things around the house will teach them about the concept of symbolism and pattern recognition. Using a wall chart, which matches their routine with picture and word, will help them grasp the concept of practicality, for reading is not just what you watch it's also something that is part of everyday associations.

For tactile children using letters they can pick up and handle, in many differing fabrics and materials will help them associate more personally with each letter. Getting them to physically spell out their name, favourite food or activity will help them understand sequencing and that letters - with their own sound - when added together produce a word. Physical games, such as hopscotch using words and letters, molding letters and words out of sand or play dough, or asking them to try to bend their body into the letters will create an easy association to learning to read.

Auditory children, need to associate sound to pictures. Lots of explaining the whys and wherefores! Explain to them that writing is a way for other people to hear with their eyes.

They will excel at pattern recognition, however a parent needs to be careful when using flash cards as the auditory child's natural gift of memorising sounds can impair their ability to learn to sound out the letters and words phonetically. Often a more informal approach can help with this, having them read from a variety of sources such as books, magazines, cereal boxes or even sign posts.

Learning to read is the essence of education, and a firm and solid foundation is a must to create a fundamental love of learning and understanding. Making the experience sensory will allow your child to have fun and feel confident in their growing abilities.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of "Child Sense" and "Calm the Crying." She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at www.dunstanbabynewyork.com.

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