Becoming a reader is not something that is going to happen overnight. It takes several years for a child to amass the knowledge that is needed to become a reader. Through these preliminary years there are several learning experiences that families can provide for their children to guide them toward becoming readers. These learning experiences should be fun and entertaining so that the children will build a love of learning and reading.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to talk about building readers during the infant stage, but that is exactly where children begin their journey toward reading. It is during this time that they are first exposed to books and language and they begin to build their knowledge about the world around them. Families can provide experiences like those suggested by Reading is Fundamental (2007) below, which will enhance their understanding about language and literacy:
- Read aloud to your baby for only a few minutes at a time.
- Point to things in picture books and name them
- Set aside at least one regularly schedule time each day for reading
- Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs. Rhymes help develop a young child’s ear for language
Toddlers show an increasing awareness and delight in reading books. It is not uncommon for them to walk over to a book, pick it up and pretend to read it. These actions should be acknowledged and the child should feel as though they are capable of reading to themselves. This confidence will help guide them once they reach the kindergarten level of reading. Families can provide experiences like those suggested by Reading is Fundamental (2007) below, which will enhance toddler’s understanding about language and literacy:
- Read aloud to your toddler for as long as they are willing to listen
- As your child learns to talk, ask them to point out the pictures in the book and say what they are
- Make reading a part of your toddler’s everyday routine, putting aside time with them every day to read.
- Take your toddler to the library or bookstore for story hour.
- Continue to recite nursery rhymes and sing songs with your toddler
Once your child becomes a preschooler it is important to remember that they are still not quite at the age where reading begins. They are still in the process of learning their letters (alphabetic knowledge) and the sounds that they make (phonetic knowledge) and how these combine to create words (phonemic knowledge). This is quite a bit of knowledge for them to acquire during these years. Here are suggestions from Reading is Fundamental (2007) which families can do to help guide their children towards this knowledge:
- Encourage your child to join in while you read. Pause and let them fill in rhyming words or repeating lines.
- Ask open-ended questions while reading, i.e., “What do you think will happen next?” “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
- Move your finger under the words as you read. This will help them connect the written words to the spoken words and will also develop their ability to read from left to right.
- Begin teaching the letters of the alphabet, starting with those in your child’s name. (See the article on ways to learn letters for fun interactive ways to work with your child on this skill)
- Introduce concept books such as counting and ABC books
- Introduce pattern books (those with rhyme and repetition, for example: Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert
In all of these activities it is important to remember that in order for a child to remember what they are learning they need to be able to attach it to a positive emotion. By making it fun for your child you are providing that emotion and increasing their ability to retain the information.
Sandra Weyer, M.Ed.
Helping your child become readers. (2007). Retrieved from Reading is Fundamental: www.rif.org