How To Prepare Preschool Children For Learning To Read
Daily reading is a must
Think and talk about the story
Spell kids' names
Have fun with rhymes
Read the words
These easy-to-learn techniques will boost your child's ability to learn to read, and you can easily incorporate them in your reading routine at home. They are techniques taught to elementary and preschool teachers, and many children's librarians use them to help kids who are learning to read in early elementary grades.
First and foremost, just read!
Make sure that before you dive into the reading techniques offered below, that you understand one key point: these techniques are meant to supplement, but not to replace daily reading with your child. If you are not reading to children every day, or at least as often as possible, these techniques won't help. Most early elementary educators agree that reading for 15 minutes a day with your children will go a long way toward their becoming readers themselves. The 15-minute a day statistic is well-documented by early childhood education researchers.
The ABC Song
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Reading to young children promotes language acquisition and correlates with literacy development and, later on, with achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school.
Below are some specific strategies you can use while reading with a young child. Remember that it is important to enjoy the reading experience, too, so introduce these reading techniques into your reading routine slowly.
Guide your child to think and talk about the story
When you sit down to read together, take some time to show your child the book before you read the words in the story. If this is your first time reading a book, look at the front cover and read the title, then page through the pictures. Ask her to guess what the story might be about. The illustrations wil provide contextual clues for making predictions. This technique gets your child engaged in the story and helps build the habit of anticipating and thinking about what comes next.
Make predictions as you read. While you read together, stop at key moments to say "what do you think will happen next?" Ask her to turn the page for you and actively engage her in the process of reading.
Talk about the story. After you finish reading, ask questions that relate the story to your child. For example, if you were reading the Three Little Pigs with your child, and she had never been exposed to that story, you might ask "Which little pig had the best house? Why?" or "Which little pig would you want to be?" By talking about the story and applying it to your child, you help your child to internalize what you read together. You are teaching your child to be reader and a thinker. Those higher-level thinking skills play an important role in later learning.
Teach your children to spell their names
Try to spend a little bit of time working with your child to learn the letters of the alphabet. Two places to start are teaching your child to recognize and spell his or her name, Look for the letters in your child's name everywhere you go: on billboards, license plates, and at the grocery store. Work on one letter at a time and she'll learn them all before you know it. If you make this a game it will be a fun way to build memories and you'll know you are helping your child with kindergarten readiness.
Make sure your child's name is on their door or on a shelf in their bedroom. This is an easy and simple way for them to see their name often and to begin to learn their letters. Alphabet-themed posters and wallpapers can be a fun and educational way to reinforce kids' exposure to a language-rich home environment. If you are decorating a playroom or a bedroom, you can incorporate words and letters into your room decor.
Sing children's songs like the alphabet song, A You're Adorable, and any other favorite children's music. One benefit of the above two song titles is learning to say the letters of the alphabet, but I also love A You're Adorable because it has such a positive message of love, too.
Recognizing the letters A-Z are the first steps to knowing letters and sounding them out, which is also called decoding by early elementary educators. I particularly like singing nursery rhymes set to music, but a wide range of children's music is out there that appeals to various tastes and musical styles. Don't forget to have a selection of children's music available for singing along in the car.
Note that knowing the ABC song is an early first step to decoding, but it is not the same as knowing the letters of the alphabet and being able to associate sounds with those letters. But it is an important start.
Have fun with rhymes
Two vital skills for learning to decode are letter recognition and rhyming. Fill your reading with rhymes and rhyming books. Make a game of identifying words that rhyme. You could use pictures of items that rhyme, such as a bat and a cat and a hat, or you could say rhyming words and ask your child to say if the word rhymed or not. This could be a fun addition to your choice of car games on the long drive to grandma's house.
When my daughter was 4 or 5 years old, my husband made a game of rhyming words with pink, because she liked to drink strawberry milk. As he mixed up her glass of Strawberry Quick, he'd say something like, "Here's your pink drink, I'm putting it in the sink!" Soon she was responding "I'm going to wink and blink before I drink that pink drink in the sink, I think!"
Read books with rhyming text, and learn some favorite nursery rhymes. I think some of the popularity of Dr. Seuss's stories comes from the satisfactory rhyming in his books. Helen Oxenbury has published one of my favorite collections of illustrated nursery rhymes, but you can also find nursery rhymes in many locations on the internet.
Read the Words
Some adults I know will read a book to a child by looking at the story and making up the words. This is acceptable to do with young toddlers who have a very limited attention span. And it is perfectly ok to keep a child engaged with the reading process. But emergent readers can find this practice very confusing once they begin to identify some of the words on the page you are reading to them. When you are ready to turn your focus to reading readiness with your child, you may want to concentrate on reading the words on the pages as they appear. You can also take your child's finger and gently guide her hand over the words as you read them. This practice is especially helpful if you are reading alphabet books, and helps kinesthetic learners whose sense of touch is linked to their ability to comprehend.
I like these techniques because they can be used to positive effect, even if you don't plan to take the next step and teach your youngin' to read early. If you are interested in this step, I recommend the book, Teaching Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I currently keep as part of my permanent home library.
However, I feel that it is more important to instill a love of reading by exposing your child to great children's books that you both enjoy. Set aside a special time and place to read with your child. A big cozy chair where the two of you can squish together is just about perfect. Happy reading!
Early Childhood Links
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann ♦ Start a Home School Preschool Co-Op ♦ Using Music Education Techniques in Your Toddler/Preschool Storytime ♦ Start a Preschool Storytime Program/ Story Hour at Your Library ♦ Preschool Story Hour Ideas: Using Storytime Themes In a Sample Lesson ♦ Great Read-Aloud Children's Books with Reviews and Sample Lesson Plans ♦ Goldilocks And the Three Bears Preschool Creative Drama Activity ♦ Music Education Techniques to Use in Your Toddler/Preschool Story Hour ♦
Read my full review of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
I have used this book with my children to help them get an early start on reading. If you are interested in doing some early home reading education, this book uses the DISTAR reading method and comes strongly recommended by many home school educators.
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