University of Hawaii Psychology professor Arthur W. Staats, PhD, lays out tips for preventing the condition in his book The Marvelous Learning Animal.
- During infancy, generate first language development. Continue to develop the language development of the child by constantly naming the activities and experiences that are being experienced.
- Create a relationship of doing things together. During the toddler years, play and do other activities together. Engage your child’s help in simple things such as assisting you with simple chores.
- When the child has developed good language for a two or three year old, introduce what Staats calls the “Reading Game.”
1) Make 10 five by eight cards with pictures of a common object on each, like a spoon, a car, a dog, and chair-perhaps cut from magazines.
2) Then one evening after dinner, but before dessert, sit down with the child and one by one show each of the pictures asking “Can you tell me what this is? Compliment the child in each by saying “Very good,” or some such.
3) After going through the cards go have dessert, or tell the child than now you can do something he or she wants to do, like play with a toy, in other words present a reward.
4) Do this again another night.
5) On the third night mix a card with a capital letter A printed on it into the ten cards. When this card comes up say “This is the letter A. Can you say A?” After the child says “A” compliment her or him “Saying that’s really good, you read the letter.” The child can be shown the letter in a magazine, book, or newspaper. Dessert or some reward. Do this until the child says the letter without prompting, but always be ready to give the answer if there is any hesitancy.
6) The next time this is done present the pictures including the letter B (not A) and immediately say “This is the letter B, can you say B.” Do the same until the child knows B well. Then the next night go back to A alone, and tell the child “This is the letter A again, can you say A? On succeeding nights give training on the two letters separately until the child knows them both well. Then have them both in the pack of cards. Prompt the child on each letter so there are no errors, until the child knows them well. Then other letters can be introduced, on at a time, with the same caution. Preventing errors is essential. Never try to speed the learning.
Additional Reading Game Tips
— Keep the training to short periods.
— Always use compliments.
— Have a reward after each session.
Staats says, “Knowing the alphabet when a child enters school is the best predictor of whether or not the child will learn to read.”