Helping your child learn to share your love of the written word is a satisfying task, and one that will help build bonds between you. But whilst hearing your child read her first word will make any parent brim with pride, should you be the one who teaching them, or should you leave it up to the professionals?
Parents as teachers
"I don't really think parents should teach their children to read," says Wendy Cooling, who pioneered the Bookstart scheme that encourages parents to share books with their babies. According to Cooling, a parent's role is to instil a love for book and stories, rather than deal with the mechanics of learning to read.
According to the National Literacy Trust, reading with your child has been shown to help children develop a positive approach to reading at school. And sharing your interest in reading is one way to encourage her interest, even if your child doesn't yet know her ABCs. But when it comes to the process of learning to read words, some experts believe that parents should step back.
Anne Marsh, Head of Infants at Nine Mile Ride School in Berkshire, is wary of too much preschool preparation by parents. Bear in mind that our European counterparts aren't even introduced to reading until around the ages of six or seven. There's also the danger that children who start school being able to read will just be bored.
What can parents do?
Wendy Cooling believes that the emphasis should be on enjoyment and fun. "Parents should instil a love for stories and books," she says. "In that sense, parents have the fun part, because they get to read all those lovely stories to their child."
Reading together, playing auditory games (such as rhyming), spotting letters on road signs and talking about pictures you see in newspapers, or magazines are all great ways to get started: there are opportunities everywhere to whet your child's appetite for reading. What's important to remember is that the process is a partnership, with teachers and parents having different roles to play.
Top books to encourage a love of reading
There are several excellent reading schemes that will help your child learn to read with books that are graded in difficulty as her stills progress.