1) What can I do now to make sure that my two year old will learn how to read?
Reading books should be a fun and enjoyable activity for both of you. Most importantly, by giving your child positive experiences with books, you are instilling in him a genuine, lifelong passion for reading and learninga priceless gift!
2) My daughter just started preschool and I have noticed that sometimes she writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?
Writing letters backwards is a normal part of developing writing skills in preschool. If you have other reasons to suspect dyslexia (like parents or relatives with dyslexia, or problems identifying sounds or learning to say the alphabet), you should continue to monitor her progress and document your observations in case you see signs of a bigger problem.
Keep practicing with her by doing fun writing activities at home, like writing a shopping list, or writing a letter to a relative. Most of her early mistakes will be part of the process of learning to write, so model the right way, but don't hold her to it too early! She is in an experimentation phase with this skill.
3) My child is 18 months old and is not yet speaking, but understands commands and responds to directions. What can I do to help her develop her language skills?
Each child develops language at her own rate. Typically children say their first word around one year of age and then slowly acquire more words. Some children can say around 70 words at 18 months, however others take longer to get started. The key is that your child's receptive language, meaning what she understands, is not delayed. A typical child at 18 months can follow directions, point to a number of pictures in books, point to objects/people in their environment when asked, and point to several body parts.
Reading to your child makes the biggest difference in language development and future reading skills. Also, imitate and expand on your daughter's attempts to speak. If she says, "Uh-oh," you say, "Uh-oh, we spilled the milk!" If she still isn't talking by her second birthday, talk with your doctor and consider an evaluation by an early intervention specialist. This may ease your concerns if you continue to have them.
Also see the Reading Rockets section on developmental milestones for speaking and reading.
4) My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?
There are many ways to help your child develop his reading skills. Sight words can be practiced using flashcards, which you can easily make at home using index cards. Use pictures, symbols and colors to help reinforce the word.
Adding fun activities like writing the words in shaving cream, in the sand, on a chalkboard, or using magnetic letters may be motivating for your young learner, and is a good way to help him feel the shape of the word.
Also, point to words in stories you are reading. Stop on a familiar sight word (like: the, that, this, and) so your child can fill in the word.
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