Ready to Read
There are many theories about the best ways to help your child acquire the skills they will need to read. One great resource available to families has been created by the U.S. Department of Education (Free! http://ed.gov/parents/academic/help/reader/index.html).
This handy-dandy guide is not only filled with the “why,” but the “how.” Here are the basics:
- Recognize the opportunities that children have to find meaning in words, sounds and pictures. Children begin to “read words” first by the tone and sound of words, even your facial expressions (i.e. how your face looks different when you say “no” versus when you are singing a lullaby to baby). As we all know, younger children understand (receptive language – or understanding of words) much more than they are able to communicate.
- Support your child's expressive language development (their ability to talk!). By 9 months, your child may have been starting to say their first word. By the age of two, their vocabulary may have grown to over 200 words and by the time they will reach kindergarten, their vocabulary is over 10,000 words! Language development (your child talking) is one of the keys to them also developing their reading skills. Support them by asking questions, giving them time to talk, and creating a language-rich environment (books!). Even when their words or sentences may not quite make sense or seem just silly, it is important to recognize that expressive language (or the ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings) is a key component in gaining the skills they will later need to read. Singing is also a great (and fun) way to support expressive language.
- Introduce the alphabet. Once children have both receptive and expressive language, they are ready to be introduced to symbols (the alphabet) that will eventually create new meanings (words!). First and foremost, remember that learning should be joyful and appropriate, not forced. Start with the basics. ABC books, of course, then things like magnetic letters and then even seeing you write letters on papers or with soap crayons in the bathtub, etc. Point out letters and words in the environment (their name on a paper, signs about town, etc.).
- Tell and listen to stories. We start with reading books to our babies. Now, they may begin telling stories to you. Encourage your child to “read” books by sharing what they see in pictures or what they may recall from hearing a story read to them. Take turns sharing ideas or words. Finally, you may find that your child is beginning to recognize certain letters or words in print. They are well on their way to becoming a successful reader!
Just like all development, reading preparation is a process. Take time and enjoy the stories and memories you will create.