Although children can be taught how to read Arabic as soon as they start speaking, there is no hurry in getting them to read quickly at a young age. I started teaching my first child Arabic when she was 2 years old as she started speaking short sentences. However, when one gains experience and more children come along, you realise that the age at which they learn to read does not matter. In fact the older they are the quicker they learn as they start to retain the information for longer.
Where do you start teaching your child to read Arabic? Arabic is a phonetical language. What ever is written is read, except in very rare occasions, therefore reading is the easiest step to learning Arabic. Before we look at the steps of learning to read, it is important for the child to have a positive experience. The following method ensures that by teaching the child to read full meaningful words from the beginning.
Step 1: using flash cards of the Arabic alphabet with the fetha on the letter, flash the card with the letter كَ to the child soget a quick look. Then flash the flashcard with the letter بَ and then the letter تَ . Do this 5 or 6 times for each letter. Put the card away. Micro learning for small children when their attention span is short is better because they get to learn the letter and be eager to read it again. Curiosity keeps interest going. Flash the same letter in the same manner for a few days and put it away. Make it fun with lots of laughter. If the child shows interest flash it again. Play some of the suggested activities below. The order of the letters introduced should be according to the order in The Steps to Arabic Reading Scheme so that the child ends up reading meaningful words. The more letters you introduce the more different kinds of games you can play with the cards.
Flash cards’ Activities
- Play the memory game. Place all cards facing down, each player picks 2 cards at a time. If they are the same letter, read the letter and keep the cards.
- If the flash cards are laminated, the child can trace over the letter with a feltip pen or with their fingers while sounding the letter.
- Stick the cards around the room, shout out the letter for the child/children to get the letter.
- Put the letters on the floor facing up. Ask the child to give you the letter you sound. Or even better, allow your child to be the teacher where they sound the letter and you have to give it to them.
- Have the flash card of a letter in front of you and open a children’s Arabic reading book. Find the letter in the text in the book so that the child recognises the shape of the vowelled letter in different texts. Here is a good time to point out the letter in the beginnig, middle and end of the word.
- Open the Quran and find the letter in the Quran so that the child is connected with the Quran from a young age.
- Once the child is familiar with some of the letters, play the spelling game. Say a letter sound with fetha and the child has to write it using white board/chalk on the ground/sand etc… If the child learns the pronunciation correctly, they will write the letters correctly.
It should be emphasized that fetha is a short sound and should not be stretched at all. Introduce the letters broken up. Using Arabic books or the Steps to Arabic cards, point out what the letter looks like when joined up. By the time they finish the letters with fetha, they will be able to recognize all the letters when joined up in a word. You can also use Baitul Huroof Activity Pack to re-enforce the shape of the letter in different parts of the word.
Why start of with fetha on the letters? Why not introduce the names of the letters first then introduce the fetha sound?
When a child reads a letter they don’t read the name, rather they say the sound of the letter depending on what the vowel on that letter is. Therefore, why confuse the child with the names to begin with and then teach them how to sound the letter. For a young child, you can spend a whole year with the fetha sound on the letters, before introducing the kesra sound. By the time they finish of the fetha sound, they should be able to recognise the letter in any clear Arabic text including the Quran.
Read meaningful words using the letters introduced
Alongside the flashcards, use the Steps to Arabic Reading scheme where the letters are introduced with the fetha sound in a particular order, so that the child reads meaningful words. It also shows the letters in broken up form and in joined form. Once the child can recognise the letter with the fetha sound and knows how to sound it, encourage them to read the words on the first card of the Steps to Arabic Reading Scheme or use Qaidah books such as Al Baghdadiya Qaidah.
Once the child can read word with the fetha sound, introduce the letters with kesrah. Do all the letters with kesrah and read words that have the kesrah and fetha sounds. Then when the child is ready, introduce dhammah, then sukoon then go onto long vowels, emphasizing it is a long vowel. Play the spelling game on a regular basis to re-enforce the letter with the sound correctly. The spelling game plays a big role in spelling words out correctly in later on years. Learning to read Arabic correctly is the foundation of spelling, therefore, it is a very important step.