Teaching our kids how to read isn’t solely the job of their preschool or kindergarten teacher — it’s something that starts at home. I’ve come up with a new way to help my preschooler learn how to read. Follow along and hopefully, you’ll acquire a few ideas to make your new reader a little more comfortable with the written word.
Be Patient — They’re Learning a New Language
What foreign language did you take in high school? French? Spanish? How hard was it for you to learn a new and totally different language than your native tongue? And how much of it do you remember — five, 10, or 15 years later if you don’t use it every single day?
For preschoolers, who speak English before they can read it, learning to read is like learning a totally new language. It’s like someone handing you a menu in Japanese and expecting you to understand it — unless you know that those are words, and what each symbol means, the Japanese language is scribbles on a page.
For your little one, “See Spot Run” is a bunch of scribbles on pages with pictures of a cute puppy. Be patient with them — getting frustrated will discourage them from wanting to actually learn to read.
Sing With Them
How long did it take you to figure out that “The Alphabet Song” was set to the same tune as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”? Setting things to music is a great way to help your kids remember them —look at the jingle for your favorite fast food place or retail shop. They set those jingles to music to make them stick in your brain.
Remember “School House Rock”? We still remember the “Preamble of the Constitution,” 20+ years later, because it was set to music. Sure, we have to sing the song to remember the exact text of the document, but it’s still there — easy to access — all because of the jingle. Scientists have even found that listening to certain types of music while you’re studying or working can help improve memory and problem-solving.
Start with singing “The Alphabet Song” with them, while pointing out each letter you sing. Get them to sing along if you can.
Nearly 68 percent of fourth graders in the United States don’t read at their grade level. Giving them a head start, even if it’s “The Alphabet Song,” can help to reduce those numbers in the long run.
Read With Them, Not Just To Them
Don’t get us wrong — you should absolutely start reading to your kids as early and as often as possible. Research has shown that reading to your kids from a young age helps to improve literacy and increase their vocabulary, in addition to being quality bonding time between you and your little ones. Once they start reaching preschool age or express interest in reading themselves, it’s time to start handing over that book and reading together.
This could be as simple as having them point out sight words or words they recognize while you’re reading, or alternating pages as you’re reading — you read the first page, they read the second, and so on. Find what works best for you and your new readers — everyone learns and works in their own way.
Let Them See You Reading
Just because you have a new reader in the house doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your time reading “Run Spot Run” or Dr. Seuss. Take some time to read for yourself. It’s good for you, and seeing you enjoying a book or even your Kindle or tablet helps to foster a love of reading they won’t get anywhere else.
You can even go as far as establishing quiet reading times, either throughout the day or in the evening when everything is starting to wind down. It’s a great way to relax from a long day and you get the added bonus of helping your preschooler learn how to read. Fair warning though, you might not get a lot of reading done yourself once your little one actually takes to it — if our kids are any indication, they’ll want to read to you at every and any opportunity. This isn’t a bad thing, but it might make it hard to finish the latest “Outlander” or “Game of Thrones” book. (If George R. R. Martin ever gets around to writing another one… We’re looking at you, GRRM!)
A lifelong love of reading will take your child to worlds they could never have imagined. You don’t have to wait until they’re in school to get them started with a love of literature. Read early, read often and let them see you reading — and you will help them build a solid foundation where towers of books will be laid upon in the future.