Getting Your Child Ready to Read
A toddler who says "ba-ba" to prompt his mother to bring him a bottle shows he understands that words hold meaning. A three-year-old who pretends a block is a "choo-choo train" reveals her understanding that one thing can stand for another—a foundation for learning that letters and words symbolize sounds, objects, thought, and action. Here are some concrete ways you can support your child's emerging reading skills.
- Make written language an everyday, organic, and meaningful experience.
Most children learn to read by being read to and exposed to the printed word in their daily lives. Together, generate a grocery list and write the words in big block letters. Draw the picture of the item next to the word so your child can "read" the list herself.
A home environment that is rich in language and literature will support your child as he progresses from "pre-reader" to "reader." Stay committed to making the process of learning to read pleasurable, exciting, and pressure-free. Keep in mind that as with learning how to talk, children begin to understand written letters at different rates. The key is to get your child excited by the written word so that reading becomes a natural extension of her own curiosity and an enjoyable pastime.
- Children take great pride in seeing their thoughts in print.
Writing down what your child says while he's painting or telling a story is a powerful way to increase word awareness and recognition.
- Help her with sequencing skills.
The ability to organize ideas in a logical sequence is a crucial component to reading. Snap some sequential photos of a trip to the library or to visit a friend, and have your child put them in order. Use acid-free and clear contact paper for longevity, staple the pages together, and your child has authored her own wordless picture book!
- Motivate the reader he is about to become.
Encourage your child to spend time with books on his own so he begins to experience himself as a reader. Help him develop a passion for books and stories now and you will motivate him to become a life-long reader.
- Choose great stories to read aloud.
Have a chat with the children's librarian at your local library. She'll be able to help you select books that speak to the heart and soul of your child. Reading aloud remains important even once your child has begun to read on her own—it allows her access to stories and vocabulary she is ready to hear but not yet able to read.
- Practice "shared reading."
Help your child recognize where the text is on the page by following the words with your finger as you read. "Shared reading" teaches him the basic, but essential, concept that text flows from left to right, and that each spoken word corresponds to a printed one.
- Have fun with language!
Children love rhythm and rhyme. Sing, recite nonsense poems, create silly words. You'll help hone her listening skills for discerning the differences between similar words—also important for reading.