Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ten ways to help your child prepare to read

My nine year old enjoys Pokemon and similar books these days.
Learning to read is one of the most exciting and important things your child will ever do.  We all know this, and that is why panic often reigns in a parent if a child can’t read fluently by the end of kindergarten.  We need to keep in mind that children don’t learn at the same pace.  For some kids, it will take time, but it will happen.  Your job is to get your child to enjoy books and reading.  You are to lay the groundwork for the teaching your child’s teachers (or you if you homeschool) will do.  So relax.  You get to do the fun part! 

Ten dos and don’ts to help prepare your child for reading

1.  Do read to your child!  Even before your child is a year old, he will sit for bits of time to listen and look at the illustrations.  Every day, more than once a day, read to your child.  Make the library a common errand and check out lots of books each time you go.  Get a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction.

2.  Don’t make your child read to you!  If you force him to read before he is ready, he will hate books and anything having to do with them.  You would simply be proving to him, in his mind, that he is not smart.  Read to him, and if he asks to read to you, let him and help him.   Then read to him some more.

3.  Do read with enthusiasm!  Do you like listening to a speaker who talks in a monotone?  Neither does your child!  You don’t have to use different voices for each character, but use the emotions reflected in the book.  If the character is sobbing, sob.  Keep it interesting.

4.  Do take the time to look at pictures and ask questions!  The illustrations tell as much of the story as the words do.  Point out the expression on each character’s face, discuss the setting, ask your child to predict what will happen next.  Find things in the book that compare to your child/family/life.  Really get your child involved in the story.

5.  Don’t buy programs, videos, flashcards, or workbooks to teach your child!  You will hear people swear by them.  That doesn’t mean you need them.  Videos can’t listen to your child, flashcards don’t give your child any context for words, and your child will get plenty of workbooks in school.  Your child needs you to help him prepare for reading.

6.  Do make letter identification a game!  Find letters and words everywhere you go.  To keep kids busy in the checkout line, have them find each letter of the alphabet in the names of the candies.  Use paint, chalk, or even mud to write the alphabet, the child’s name, or any words he’s interested in.

7.  Do let your child see you reading!  Children do what they see others (especially parents and older siblings) doing.  If you watch TV, they watch TV.  If you read, they read. 

8.  Do let your child have books of his own to be well-used (torn up)!  Keep books accessible and let your children have free reign to them, even when they are still toddlers.  You don’t want them stressed about keeping the books in perfect condition.  Your child will have certain books to which he is drawn, and those books will fall apart over time.  It’s ok. 

Each bedroom has a bookshelf, including the toddler/baby room.
This is in the room shared by the three oldest boys.

My two year old looking through Bear Snores On
9.  Do activities to go along with the books you read!  If you read a book on science experiments, do the experiments.  If you read a book about a duck jumping in puddles, go jump in some puddles.  Connect books to your child’s everyday life, and help him see the benefits of reading.

10.  Do turn off all electronic devices for most of the day!  If given the choice, most children, even kids who like to read, will choose TV or video games over reading.  Take that choice away. 

Take a look next to the post for a list of some of my family's favorite picture books. 

Let me know what your favorites are, as we are always looking for more!