Learning to read in elementary school: how does it work?

Leren lezen op de basisschool: hoe werkt dat?

As soon as children start primary school, they start learning the letters of the alphabet. When they enter grade three, they begin to read in earnest. But how does learning to read actually work? And how can you, as a parent, encourage or help your child with reading? In this article, you'll find everything about reading for children.

When does your child start reading?

Kids really begin to learn to read when they're around five or six years old. They learn this at school. In fact, as a parent, you don't need to teach your child to read at home, but it helps if you start doing so in a playful way. Here are a few ideas on how to teach children to read:

  • Challenge your child to play a game where they have to think about words.
  • Get crafty with letters. Cut out or find letters in newspapers together. Make silly words or a beautiful collage.
  • Letter blocks or cards are fun for kids to play with, allowing them to form words on their own.
  • Use a topic to teach your child about the context of words. What words can you name when you think of the zoo?
  • Reading aloud! We can't stress this enough. Reading aloud is one of the most important things for your child's upbringing.
  • Teach reading through an app. You can download various apps on your tablet that teach kids to read in a playful way.

Learning to read at school

The bulk of learning to read happens at school. This starts as early as in grades one and two. Initially, kids learn to recognize letters by, for example, tracing them with their fingers, singing the alphabet, and writing their own names. In grade two, kids start to learn to read more by recognizing words. From grade three onwards, children truly start learning to read. They learn how to pronounce words and read entire sentences. If progress is slow, that's okay, as children in grade three still need plenty of space and freedom. Grade four is where children practice fluent reading and understanding texts, or reading comprehension. From grades five to eight, the focus remains on reading comprehension. Often, children are given leveled reading books to read.

Helpful apps: learning to read

If your child struggles with reading, we have a few handy tips that can help:

  • Start with reading aloud first, then pass the baton. To get your child to read on their own, it can help to first read a section of the book yourself. Your child will be fully engaged in the story and more likely to pick up the book themselves.
  • Alternate reading. Another tip is to take turns reading with each other. Take turns reading a page from the book, or start smaller and alternate paragraphs.
  • Reading aloud! There it is again. Reading aloud to your child remains important, so try to do this for as long as possible as a parent.
  • Sometimes a book may still be too difficult for your child. This can lead to quicker demotivation to read. A handy tip to prevent this is to have your child read the first page of the book. If there are four or more unfamiliar words, then the book's level is still a bit too high. On to the next one!

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