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Parenting K-6 Kids/Can you teach a three year old child learn to reed/write?


QUESTION: Can you teach a three year old child learn to reed/write English?

ANSWER: Hello Administrator,

Children develop at different times and speeds. Most three-year olds are not developmentally ready to read completely or even write to some degree. What you can and should be doing for three-year olds is exposing them to books. Read to them every single day. Show them the pictures as you tell them the stories. Give them board books and maybe even paper books that they can explore.

You can point out words to them. Show them their name. Slowly, children of this age will connect these things called "words" to things and ideas in their world. They may not be able to "read", but they will slowly start to connect a series of symbols (letters) to represent something. So, "T-O-D-D" might signify the child's name. When he sees those letters in that order, he might say, "That's my name. That says 'Todd'." This becomes the foundation for the child's sight words, words that he recognizes, but may not actually be reading. This will eventually be the basis for reading the way most of us think of reading...sounding out words.

There are a few young people that might have the ability to read at age three. But, don't push it on a child. Expose them to books and if they are interested in "reading" they will let you know. They will ask you what a words says, or what a symbol means, or what letter that is. So, answer them, and let them dictate how far they want to go with reading and writing. Just realize that most three-year olds aren't reading just yet.

As far as writing, have markers, crayons, pencils and paint available for the three-year old at a craft station. Have paper and cardboard available for them to decorate, draw and write on. Three-year olds are still trying to figure out how to hold these objects. So we can't expect them to write yet. But, some who have been exposed to books will relate letters to words, and may decide to draw a picture, then "write" about it. Now, often this writing may be a string of made-up characters, or might even be real letters (some faced the wrong way) that don't correspond to real words. What you'll want to do is ask the child to read it to you, and she will tell you her story. This is the beginning of writing. Don't correct a three-year old here and tell her it's spelled wrong or that the letter is not written correctly. You don't want to stifle this process.

And, yes, there are a very few 3-year olds who can actually write, but they are not the norm. Again, give them the materials and let them explore. Those who are ready for more will emerge. They will ask how to write a specific word or what letter is next. Feel free to give them what they are looking for, but don't push for more. Let the child be your guide.

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QUESTION: What do you have to do if the child is expected to learn how to read/write two different languages at the same time? One of those languages is English and the other one is French. The father only speaks French to the child, but the child also speaks English. How would the child react? She lives in the United States but visits France and Quebec Canada every year. She is told that she has to speak English in the United States and French in France and Quebec Canada. She is told that she also has to speak only French to her father in the United States and English to her mother.

Hello again, Administrator,

If it was my child, I would change the expectations. Being bilingual is such an incredibly important asset in our society nowadays. But, pushing a child to read and write at age three can be detrimental. We need to let a child develop at their pace during the early years.

Having one adult speak one language to the child, and the other parent speak a different language is great. If the child has been exposed to this since birth, it seems only natural. The child often doesn't differentiate between the two languages at first. He doesn't realize that there are two languages. He just knows that Mom uses different words to communicate than dad.

Children who are raised bilingually often develop language slower than their peers, because there's more to process than a child learning just one language. I don't think that a three-year old should be told to speak one way or another. If she speaks English to Dad (who speaks French), Dad should accept the communication of his daughter, but then respond back to her in French. In that way, the child is not being pushed to speak a certain way, but is being exposed to the language. What will eventually happen if she is with him long enough, is that she will start responding to him in French, and she will naturally speak to him in that language without being told she must.

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Leon Scott Baxter


I can answer questions about raising happy, successful children. The two are synonymous. I would love to help you help your child find his passion or strength, how to encourage your child and give her opportunities, and discuss the importance of failure, perseverance, and resilience. If you have questions about how to get your child to believe in herself or how to parent versus being her friend, I can help. I can answer questions about how to model the right behaviors for your child, and what those behaviors might be for your specific situation. I also can help you deal with excuses: excuses you may be making for your child as well as excuses he is making for himself.


I have been an elementary school teacher for seventeen years. I am also an author, known as "America's Relationship Guru". I was a contributor to "Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul". My first three books have dealt with the relationship between couples in a romantic relationship. I am currently working on a new book on raising happy and successful children. For the book I interviewed happy, successful children (Maddie Bradshaw, Caine Monroy and many others) and/or their parents. I am also the father of two girls (10 and 15). Their resumes include: business owners, authors, YouTube celebrity, fundraisers, and print models. They have appeared in commercials, music videos, have interacted with mayors, international politicians, and one was mentioned on Capitol Hill for her help in finding a cure for pediatric cancer. They have watched a Dodger's Game with Jackie Robinson's daughter, been a pen pal with Dom DeLuise, and one was an official toy tester, while the other was invited to pitch her idea to a toy company. They've had these successes while also dealing with anxiety disorders and OCD.

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I received a Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and got a teaching credential from Cal State Northridge.

Awards and Honors
• Named a Ben and Jerry's Citizen Cool • KLITE Community Hero • Certificate of Congressional Recognition in Teaching • Name is on the National Wall of Tolerance • Recipient of Realiastar's "Education's Unsung Heroes" Grant • Numerous "Best Dad in the World/Universe/Galaxy Certificates/Mugs/T-shirts/Hats

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