How can my child become a great sight reader?
When your child learned to speak, was it because you held up a sign saying “hello” until they learned how to say it? Children speak thousands of words before we ask them to write a sentence. While it’s laughable to think about them learning to read before they learn to speak their native tongue, for many students the music reading process is expected to happen in this way. Picture this: their teacher passes them a piece of paper and makes them start at the beginning, stumble their way through it, receiving endless corrections before they reach the end… and by then they can’t remember how it started. There is a more musical way to learn to read!
To help our children become great sight readers, we start with helping them to be great musicians. Hearing their pieces played expressively and correctly is vital. Don’t be frightened of listening to recordings, because an excellent performance will help children understand tempo, articulation, rhythm, phrasing, dynamics and more.
Just as classroom English teachers break down the English language into spelling, grammar, creative writing, sentence writing, phonics, sight words and so on, sight reading skills can be taught in manageable steps like pitch, intervals, rhythm, key signatures and so on. Students may be motivated by playing complicated pieces that they learn by ear or by rote while still working on the building blocks of reading with short, easy and fun pieces.
Students should be playing lots of new music all the time! Parents can help by keeping a pile of easy piano music beside the piano, whether that is a book of easier repertoire or a Sight Reading Secrets book at their child’s ability level. Students often can’t resist a few minutes on an app like NoteWorks – much more interesting than flash cards! Build the skills gradually, and over time music reading becomes fluent – just like their native tongue.