Literacy is one of the most important life skills a person can acquire, and learning to read and write is one of the biggest milestones in a child’s life. Parents are naturally concerned with their children’s progress. However, teaching a child to read and write can be a stressful experience filled with uncertainty, misinformation, and unrealistic expectations for many mums and dads.
And as challenging as it may be for parents, no one bears the brunt of the frustration more than the child. Difficulty reading can lead to a loss of self-esteem and a loss of interest in reading altogether. Fortunately, there are ways for parents to be involved in the development of their child’s literacy and be instrumental in building reading and writing skills.
By age seven, most children should be on their journey as young readers and writers. Parents play a crucial role not only in developing their children’s literacy skills but, just as importantly, providing the right environment for learning to read and write. If you’re still unsure of your ability to help your child learn, here are nine tips for teaching your seven-year-old to read and write.
Know What Key Reading Skills to Develop
As with many educational endeavours, reading is a set of skills that must be learned and practiced before proficiency is gained. From a parent’s perspective, knowing the individual skills that make up your seven-year-old’s reading toolbox will enable you to nurture that which needs further development and refine what your child has already accomplished. You may very well be as enriched by your child’s journey as they are.
Although particular teaching philosophies vary, there are essentially five core skills that children must develop as they learn to read and write:
- Phonemic awareness – The ability to recognise and manipulate the different sound components of words
- Phonics – Recognition of the sounds made by different letters and combination of letters
- Vocabulary – Understanding the meanings and definitions of individual words and how they are used in sentences
- Reading comprehension – The ability to understand the meaning of a text in different forms and of varying lengths
- Fluency – The ability to read out loud with speed and accuracy while understanding the material that is being read
You can teach these skills to your child through different exercises and activities – some of which focus on one specific skill, while others work on multiple skills. The greatest temptation for parents is to judge or grade their child’s progress. Do yourself (and your child) a favor and resist this urge at all costs. Patience is essential when teaching your child to read and write.
It is also important to talk to your child’s teacher to see what your child is learning in the classroom and if they are facing any areas of difficulty. It is great to understand the way that the teacher is teaching the concepts in class so you can model the same strategies and use the same language when you are teaching your child. It can become confusing for your seven-year-old if their parents and teachers are teaching them the same concept in different ways.
As far as teaching your seven-year-old the five core reading and writing skills, here are a few skill-building ideas:
- Read and recite songs and nursery rhymes – This is far more than a fun activity done in classrooms across the globe; it is a proven method for building phonemic awareness. The rhythmic structure of songs and nursery rhymes emphasises sounds and syllables in words, which lays a strong foundation for developing literacy.
- Basic decoding of words – Simple words consisting of three distinct letter sounds (typically a consonant-vowel-consonant structure like “cat” and “hop”) are basic building blocks upon which more advanced reading can be built. Writing words on cards and having your child recite each sound while looking at a card is a good way to develop decoding and phonics skills.
- Sight words and high-frequency words – Sight words are slightly complex words that cannot be easily decoded or sounded out but are part of a child’s everyday vocabulary (for example, “who” and “why”). High-frequency words are those that are often encountered in reading and conversation.
Young readers typically memorise these words, and you would likely be surprised by how many of these words your child already knows (assuming that there are books that you regularly read together). Simply reading to or with your child will expose your child to the sight and high-frequency words they will need to know.
- Reading to your child sets an example – The benefits of reading to your seven-year-old are great, and they are many. One overlooked benefit is that by reading to your child, you are demonstrating to them what an advanced and fluent reader sounds like and setting an example for what they should aspire to accomplish with practice.
(Source: Reading Eggs)
Make Learning Fun by Playing Reading and Writing Games
Seven-year-olds are likely in Year 1 or Year 2 of primary school and have just begun their reading and writing journey. They are also becoming more aware of the world around them and may be more curious about the things they see and hear. As a parent, you can channel their natural curiosity and playfulness into fun and interesting ways to develop their reading and writing skills.
One way to do this is to turn reading and writing lessons into games and activities. Not only will your child be more engaged in the learning process as a willing and enthusiastic participant, but both you and your child will enjoy the quality time together. Your child’s reading and writing skills will improve right before your very eyes, and without any of the pressure or stress sometimes associated with rigid, traditional teaching methods.
Here are a few ideas for developing reading and writing skills through games and activities for your seven-year-old:
- Word games – Spotting words within words (like “arm” within “farm” and “ape” within “paper”) is an entertaining way to develop reading skills while boosting your child’s vocabulary. Another fun language arts activity is making up alternate words or phrases for everyday things, like “smoketube” for “chimney.”
- Phonics games – Cutting up letters and having your child spell words with them (from their weekly spelling list perhaps) is a fun way to engage them in spelling exercises, which will boost their reading skills. Word scrambles and word searches are other phonics games that make reading fun.
You and your child can even take things up another level by making up your word scrambles and word searches, challenging each other to solve the other’s puzzles.
Board games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams can be fun ways to learn sight words.
- Writing games – Have your child write words on index cards, use them to play charades, or use duplicate sets of word cards to play a memory game where your child flips over two cards at a time, earning a point for each matching set. To make things more interesting, let your child choose a theme or category for the word cards such as sports, animals, or green things.
- Games on the go – Turn routine errands into teaching and learning opportunities. The next time you drive to the supermarket or the mall, have them serve as your little navigator by reading road signs, billboards, and street addresses as you head to your destination. You can turn these reading exercises into games by hunting for specific letters or words.
(Source: Oxford University Press)
Disguise Writing Exercises as Grown-Up Activities
If there is one universal behaviour among all children, it is imitating parents and authority figures. Whether it is talking on the phone, cooking a meal, or working on a computer, children from a very young age mimic what they see grown-ups doing. Converting this natural behavior into a learning vehicle can be a useful strategy for teaching and encouraging your seven-year-old to write.
Taking daily routine writing activities and downsizing them to a seven-year-old’s level can engage your child and sharpen their writing skills without even realising that they are being taught. Writing exercises disguised as “grown-up” activities can encourage your child to develop the processes needed to put pen to paper and articulate thoughts into written words.
Here are some examples of fun exercises that can encourage your seven-year-old to write:
- Mimicking your daily activities – Whether it is writing down a shopping or to-do list or texting a quick note to a grandparent, several routine tasks can be writing activities for your seven-year-old to mimic. Have your child “help” you by jotting down a few things for you, leaving a note for someone, or even writing a card or letter to a friend or family member.
Additionally, incorporating writing into playtime can add a bit of realism to your child’s make-believe adventures. Are you playing doctor? Have your child write out a diagnosis or a prescription. Are you play-shopping? Have them write out a receipt or a sales order. Are you playing school? Let them give assignments and grade papers for a change.
Not only will these activities encourage your child to write and have fun doing it, but they will also observe firsthand just how important writing skills are in doing basic, everyday tasks.
- Have writing tools readily available – You never know when inspiration may strike, so it would be wise to have writing supplies available for your child to grab quickly. Items like crayons, markers, pencils, and paper, should be easily accessible so that when the urge or need to write arises, time will not be spent hunting around the house for something to write with (as adults are sometimes prone to do).
- Set aside time for family writing – Many families designate a special time of day just for reading. Extending this practice to include writing with your seven-year-old can make a big difference in developing their writing skills. Try to set aside time at least once a week, for a minimum of 15 minutes, to write things like journal entries, short stories, and letters with your child.
A fun writing project to take on with your child is to collaborate on making a simple book together, complete with illustrations and a cover. Not only will you see an improvement in your child’s writing skills, but upon completion, you will have a wonderful keepsake documenting their development as a young writer.
Another great activity is to encourage your child to write letters and/or birthday cards to important people in their lives. They can write birthday cards to their family and friends. They can also write thank you letters to their teachers and/or coaches.
(Source: Public Broadcasting Service)
Work with Your Child to Develop Motor Skills for Writing
In addition to the mental aspect of writing, the physical skills needed to put pen (or crayon) to paper cannot be overlooked. Writing legibly requires fine motor skills that no one is born with. Like so many physical tasks that adults take for granted, proper techniques must be learned, and then they must be practiced until they become second nature.
For writing, basic skills like how to hold a pencil, write in a straight line, and insert spaces between words, can all be learned and practiced at home with a bit of guidance and supervision.
Here are some items and practices that can help your seven-year-old to improve their writing:
- Properly sized writing instruments – A seven-year-old’s hands are still quite small, so it is important to size the writing instrument they will be using properly, whether it be a pencil, a marker, or a crayon. Scaling these items to their hand size will help them develop the fine motor skills they will need for writing legibly as they get older.
Check out our online platform for more strategies to help your child develop fine motor and handwriting skills: https://members.readykids.com.au/
- Textured paper and raised lines – Eventually, a child’s skill will develop to the point where their writing is neat, legible, and in a straight line. To help children get there, textured paper will allow them to “feel” the letters as they are being written. It also helps to reinforce the proper writing movements – top to bottom and left to right.
Similarly, paper with raised lines alerts the child when the pencil tip bumps against them, thereby keeping letters to a uniform size. Another effective method is to use color-coded lines. For example, sky-grass-dirt letters. Sky letters are for tall letters like “b”, grass letters for small letters like “a”, and dirt letters for letters with a tail like “y”.
- Writing without pencil and paper – Sometimes, not having to worry about writing in a straight line or properly holding a pencil will allow a child to focus on what is important at a young age – knowing how to write letters of the alphabet and combine them to form words.
Something as simple as using their pointer finger to write words in the sand or on a fogged-up window can make writing fun and meaningful for a child.
(Source: Understood for All)
Stress the Importance of Repetition and Frequency
A young reader’s mind is still developing, and the process of reading can be a bit overwhelming. There are a few writing nuances, such as repetition and frequency, that can help your seven-year-old read through books in a meaningful way.
The repetition of words (especially those with similar constructs) and letter groupings will eventually lead to your child memorising them and reciting them on sight. High-frequency words may not necessarily be easy to sound out or decode, but by being exposed to these words so often, children memorize them in the same way that they recognize sight words without thinking.
Word repetitions and high-frequency words present a lower cognitive load for young readers, allowing them to progress through a book at a comfortable pace, understanding the meaning of words encountered, and just as importantly, being engaged with the plot or subject matter.
(Source: Touch-type Read & Spell)
Encourage Your Child to Use Phonics to Decode Words
When teaching your child to read and write, it may be helpful to look at the process of literacy through their young eyes. In many ways, the exercise of reading for a seven-year-old is a series of problems where one must be solved to move on to the next.
In other words, your child is reading one word at a time, pausing at the difficult ones, and likely losing the overall meaning of the words due to the amount of effort expended. One of your responsibilities when reading with your child is to ensure that the flow is maintained so that the entertainment aspect of reading is not lost. A disinterested child will not be a willing learner.
You can encourage your child to become a reading problem-solver by providing them with a few rules they can follow to figure things out independently:
- No guessing at words – Discourage guessing and urge your child to look at all the letters in a word and not just the first few letters.
- Reinforce command of the alphabet – Although by the age of seven a child should be familiar with the letters of the alphabet, it may be good practice to reinforce this knowledge through the use of magnetic letters on the refrigerator or a dry-erase or chalkboard on which your child can practice.
- Master familiar words and letter groupings – Certain words and letter groupings become so familiar with frequent exposure that young children simply memorise them and recognise them on sight. Not only can these familiar words and letters be used to build confidence in your seven-year-old, but they can also serve as important building blocks for reading books and longer texts.
(Source: Reading Rockets)
Know Reading Milestones and Help your Child Reach Them
Even though children learn at different paces, there are certain milestones that young readers and writers are expected to reach at certain ages or grade levels. In the case of seven-year-olds, they are at the age when they are beginning to read to learn new things while gaining greater speed, accuracy, and fluency in their reading ability.
As the parent of a seven-year-old reader, it is important to know what these milestones are so that you can assess the progress that your child has made thus far, what areas your child may need to work on, and what achievements lie ahead. In other words, milestones serve as a roadmap of sorts, showing you where your child started, where they have been, and where they are headed.
Here are some of the milestones you should be looking for in your seven-year-old reader:
- Reading strategies – Your young reader should have the rough workings of a framework by which they approach reading and the course of action they take when they encounter something they do not understand. They will likely be reading longer and more complex texts at this age.
- Reading comprehension – Seven-year-old readers have increased reading comprehension levels and can predict outcomes as they read. They can justify conclusions they draw by referencing back to the text they have read. Children at this young age can even skim through the text to find answers to specific questions.
- Fluency and visual literacy – Many children in this age group understand rules governing punctuation and can now read with expression. They can also interpret basic maps, graphs, and tables. The materials they read now serve as models or templates upon which they base their writing.
As you observe your child’s developing reading skills, you may recognise that their vocabulary is expanding, and their phonemic awareness is becoming more advanced. But they are still young readers and will need your guidance and help from time to time.
Here are some ways you can provide guidance and assistance to your seven-year-old:
- Correcting mistakes – Encourage your child to sound out difficult words and offer gentle corrections that steer them toward the answer rather than providing the answer outright. Encourage your child to look beyond the first few letters as young readers are prone to guess words from the first two letters. Offer clues as a fun yet challenging way to have them work out a solution on their own.
- Choose skill-appropriate books – As a general rule, children should read at a 95% accuracy rate (they are fluent but still challenged). As a parent, you must provide your child books appropriate for their reading level; material that is too difficult for them to read independently should be read to them.
Establish and Nurture Your Child’s Reading Routine
An important part of your child’s development as a young reader and writer is building and reinforcing good habits and establishing a daily routine that includes reading. In the same way that activities like getting dressed, brushing their teeth, going to school, and getting ready for bed are part of a seven-year-old’s daily schedule, setting aside a designated time every day for reading will not only improve your child’s reading skills but also cultivate their passion for reading on a much larger scale.
The key is to establish a daily routine for reading with your child. The routine itself should evolve with your child’s reading ability. In the beginning, you may be doing all the reading, pointing out the words with your finger as you read them so that your child can follow along. As your child learns letters, they may recognize certain words on sight and read them out loud.
Storytime is vital to a child’s reading development, and this is particularly true for your seven-year-old. As your child’s skill improves, they will assume more responsibility for reading, and your role will shift to helping them with difficult words as needed. Find out what subjects or genres interest them most and provide them with material to keep them engaged.
Accessibility is another important aspect that should not be overlooked. Place books and other reading materials where your seven-year-old can access them, such as in the living room, the playroom, the bathroom, and even in your car.
(Source: Petit Early Learning Journey)
Create a Reading-Friendly Environment at Home
A common theme that can be found in many modern workplaces is creating an empowering environment where like-minded people are placed in positions to succeed. This same approach can be utilised at home to put your young reader in the best position to thrive from a literacy standpoint. With a little mindfulness on your part, you can create a home environment that nurtures your child’s developing reading skills in every room.
By making a conscious effort to create a reader-friendly home environment, you will let your child know that reading is an important part of everyday life. And since seven-year-olds are highly impressionable and often imitate their parents, reading in front of them will show them that reading is a valuable skill that grown-ups use all the time.
Recognise that books are not the only materials that can foster a love for reading in a child. Things like magazines, comics, newspapers, and even cereal boxes can give rise to a meaningful reading session with your child. Encourage your child to be curious about the things you read together and invite discussion.
Placing labels on everyday household items and having magnetic letters on the refrigerator door provide visual cues that create a sensory-rich environment for your seven-year-old to sharpen their developing reading skills.
Literacy may be the most important skill that a child can learn, so, understandably, parents are eager for their children to begin reading and writing at an early age. Particularly for young readers like seven-year-olds, creating the right environment to foster a passion for reading is just as important as teaching the specific skills themselves.
Whether it is finding ways to make learning more entertaining and rewarding, building your child’s enthusiasm for reading and writing, or recognising progress and instilling confidence in your young reader, you can have a dramatic and positive impact on your seven-year-old’s reading and writing ability.