Making the jump to school is an exciting time. Kids will be gaining a lot of ground in their reading development as they work their way through Kindergarten. Most kids are going to get what they need in Kindergarten, so there’s little need for concern about your child’s reading development at this point; however, if you really want to get your kids sparked on the reading journey there are some things that you can do.
Literacy development and readiness facilitates confidence in kids and enjoyment of reading is fundamental to the long-term engagement with this activity that is needed for mastery. Frustration, shame, embarrassment, and apathy can set in quickly so it’s great to get an early jump on the necessary skills that are required for reading to develop.
In the sections below, we’ll be sharing with you some activities to hone your kid’s pre-reading skills and get them truly ready for school!
1. Establish the Habit of Reading
The most straightforward way to ease your child into learning how to read is by modeling reading in their environment. Build a family of readers and schedule reading time for the whole family. Provide your children with the expectation that reading is just part of the daily routine and from there it gets created. Pick consistent times such as reading to them at bedtime or during the other quieter times of the day.
2. Show the Fundamentals
Research shows that children are more apt to become readers when they have parents who read in front of them. Model reading behaviors, show them it’s important, and show them how to do it!
I find it shocking how many children come to Kindergarten not knowing how to approach a book. That is, they don’t know how to hold a book upright physically!
Some of the first skills we look for in kids is that they know how to approach a book. Show your children how to hold a book upright and how to orient to it. Demonstrate how you start from the front cover and read to the back cover. Track with your finger when you read so they learn how to move from the top left corner across the page from left to right and from top to bottom. Ask your child to put their finger on the first letter of the first word. When they put their finger there, then you start to read – this has them initiate the action of reading by placing their finger there. Sometimes the first letter in children’s books is really large and so it’s easily found and it stands out on the page. Get them to put their finger on it. This will get them used to looking for individual letters inside of words as well as orienting to where to start reading. It also starts to build the association of the sounds that they are hearing to the letters they are seeing on the page.
3. Keep it ENGAGING
Keep it engaging. Read for as long as your child is interested, and not longer. You may also ask them to choose the book they want to read to keep them engaged in this activity.
Add in literacy-related materials to your games, such as colorful magnetic letters that they can engage with and interact with. Puzzles with painted pictures on wooden letters are a classic. Add literacy to your child’s pretend play by writing out pretend menus and or taking food orders when you play at a restaurant in the kitchen play area; or try writing pretend speeding tickets when playing at being a police officer.
I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t love playing dress-up and re-enacting the book or coming up with silly alternate endings to stories. You can find books based on your favorite movies, graphic novels, cartoons, and shows; and from those books there are endless imagination and pretend games that you can act out while being your favorite characters.
Pointing out environmental print is a very easy way to start drawing kids’ attention to letters, and the way letters go with sounds. Kids can start matching the symbols of the alphabet to the spoken words that they’re hearing every day.
Labeling things around your environment draws their attention and child-rich curiosity to those labels; and seeing labels of words helps them begin to match letter symbols to the spoken words they know from their environment.
Pointing out important or interesting signs that you notice as you guys are exploring your environment – at the park, at stores, or while driving will draw children’s attention to these symbols.
Communicating with friends and family members can be a very engaging way to explore literacy further – compose a text to Grandma (or write an old-fashioned letter!) together so your child can see how what they say out loud can get captured on a page or screen.
4. Play Word Games and focus on SOUNDS!
Children that can thoroughly process words are in great shape for literacy learning. This means being able to hear the syllables as well as the sounds in words. You will want to attend to speech – children learn sounds from hearing themselves speak, so it is important that they are able to say most speech sounds properly by Kindergarten!
Literacy skills don’t develop without phonological processing skills. Is your child having difficulty learning labels, such as colours, shapes, or letter names? I recommend getting a phonological processing assessment completed – it is likely there is a difficulty in this area that requires therapy.
Because phonological processing is critical, you will want to introduce these essential skills early on. There are numerous phonological awareness activities described on the internet. These skills often begin with clapping out syllables, recognizing and producing rhyming words, and completing alliteration tasks (being able to notice that the words “ball”, “be”, “bear” and “butterfly” all start with the same sound).
And it moves into things like being able to say what the first sound is in the word “cat” or what the last sound is in the word dog; or being able to hear the sounds /d/-/o/-/g/ and recognize the “mystery” word “dog”. Sounds really do trump letters in the preschool age and you will be advantaged to build sound practise into your day.
With my children, I like to say the sounds rather than letter names while looking in books; for example, in many Dr. Seuss books I will replace the name of the letter with the sound the letter makes while we are looking at those letters on the pages. Yes, this does occasionally mess up the “rhythm” or the rhyme of the book!
I also like to do this with letter puzzles and say the sound a letter makes as we click the letter shape into place. This really solidifies and cements the way the letter symbol looks with the sound it makes; for that is what children need to be able to learn in the skill of reading – to look at symbols and come up with the sounds so they can activate the spoken word in their head (or out loud if reading aloud).
Try playing “I Spy” with them and limit the clues you give to language-based ones. You may say something like, “I spy something that starts with the /b/ sound and is used for sleeping” (bed).
Engagement with books, modeled reading behaviours, reading habits, and embedding books into play will help draw your child’s attention to words, facilitating vocabulary and comprehension growth. Drawing attention to letters, and helping your child understand how letters represent the sounds and words they are saying and hearing all day, kickstarts the reading process.
You can’t read without sounds, so continued work on speech and sound awareness pays dividends many times over that you will NOT regret putting time into.
If there is anything wonky in your child’s speech, vocabulary development, or phonological development, I recommend getting an assessment completed.
Empower your child to step into their first day of school with confidence and eagerness to learn more!
At Speak2Read we’re all about helping children discover confidence, self-esteem, freedom, and ease around learning to communicate through individualized learning plans – teaching their way at their level. If you want to know more about our services, get in touch today for a free 30-minute call! Don’t let anything stand in your child’s way; inquire here.