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Teach Your Child to Read and Write in Any Language with This Science-Backed Method!




Are you looking for an effective way to teach your child to read and write without relying on technology?


I’m excited to share the exact method I use to teach my two trilingual kids Chinese, which can be applied to any language.


This simple 4-step method is backed by science and has saved us thousands of pounds. Let’s dive into this engaging and educational routine that will elevate your child’s reading and writing skills while making the process enjoyable!



My Journey to Developing This Method


My journey began after my son briefly attended a Chinese school before the pandemic. When the school closed, I took on the responsibility of teaching him at home. We also tried online lessons, but I found them lacking and costly. Most importantly, my kids were overstimulated by the screens and not retaining much. That’s when I started refining our home-based routine, which I’ve been perfecting for four years now.


Even if your child attends weekend classes or online lessons, this method will greatly benefit them. One or two lessons a week aren’t enough for proficiency. Research supports "distributed practice" over "massed practice," meaning short, frequent sessions are more effective for long-term retention. A study by Nicolas J. Cepeda highlights that spreading out learning improves retention and understanding.


What You’ll Need


To get started, you’ll need an age-appropriate storybook, a notebook, and a pen. For younger children, choose a picture book. We use a graded-reader series based on Disney cartoons (pictured below), which has been a game changer for us. These books are affordable and much more engaging than traditional textbooks. According to linguist Stephen Krashen, "compelling comprehensible input" is crucial for effective language learning.



The Graded Reader Series in Simplified Chinese I use With My Children; Disney stories
The Graded Reader Series in Simplified Chinese I use With My Children

The 4 Steps: Review, Read, Write, Expand (RRWE)


Our method involves a 15-minute daily routine divided into four steps: Review, Read, Write, and Expand. Here’s how each step works:


Step 1: Review


Start by reviewing what your child learned the previous day. This utilises "spaced repetition," which improves long-term retention. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’ theory of the “forgetting curve” supports the idea that repeated exposure over time helps embed information in long-term memory.


Step 2: Read


Pick up where you left off the previous day. Let your child read and only step in when they struggle. Encourage guessing from context and be patient. Studies show that it can take multiple encounters (up to 10-20!) with a word before it’s committed to memory.


Step 3: Write


Have your child practice writing key words from the day’s reading. Writing by hand, as opposed to typing, fosters stronger brain connectivity and better letter recognition, according to research by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and a 2005 study by Marieke Longcamp. I've made a separate video about the incredible cognitive benefits of handwriting!




Step 4: Expand


This step is where creativity comes in.


For example, let’s say we learned 3 new words: DOG, HOUSE, APPLE .


You can do the following expansion activities using these three words.


Storytelling

Ask your child to make up stories using these words. You can do it together if they need more help.

Why is this effective? Creating narratives helps children integrate new vocabulary into meaningful contexts, enhancing their comprehension and retention.


This is backed up by numerous studies, notably a study by Stacey Storch and Grover Whitehurst .


Drawing

For children who love drawing , you can draw and annotate together using these new words, or draw pictures to illustrate sentences you wrote together.


Experts such as Steve Graham and Karen Harris have found that drawing and labeling promote visual-spatial skills and reinforce word-object associations, aiding in memory consolidation.


Make Semantic Connections

Additionally, encourage your child to make connections between words like dog, house, and apple with other words.


For example, ask your child: what other things are similar to “dogs”? Can you think of something that rhymes with “house”? What might you find in a “house”?


This technique is backed by science. Making semantic connections between words supports semantic memory development, facilitating vocabulary expansion, according to linguist Paul Nation, among others.


Act Out Words/ Role Play

Another way to expand on the words you’ve learnt is to act the words out or engage in role play.


For example, you can ask your child to act out what a dog does or, imagine eating an apple. Or have a little role play involving a dogs and apples and houses… (That's a challenge for you!) Experts such as L.E. Berk and A. Winsler have shown that role play and acting out scenarios help children understand abstract concepts and reinforce vocabulary in a kinesthetic manner, and is highly effective.


Making Learning Fun and Sustainable


Incorporating fun into learning makes it more sustainable and effective. Inspired by Ali Abdaal’s book "Feel Good Productivity," I realised the importance of making our routine enjoyable. This shift has made our sessions less of a chore and more engaging, leading to better results.


Conclusion


By following this method consistently, you’ll see significant improvements in your child’s reading and writing skills. The process will become more enjoyable, fostering a love for learning. I hope you find this approach helpful. If you do, please like and subscribe to my channel for more educational content. Read my blog, or watch my video to learn how we’re raising our kids to be trilingual in English, Russian, and Chinese.





Thanks for reading and happy teaching!

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