Now that the girls are in school, I have a lot more time with my 3-year-old, Johnny. He’s not in preschool yet, and I want him to be on track for kindergarten in a few years. Kindergarten is not at all the finger painting and nap-taking class that it was when I was little! These days, kids leave kindergarten already reading. My teacher training gave me some starting points for teaching little pre-readers. Hopefully these tips can inspire you to help your little one develop strong literacy skills.
Raising Literate Children
At Johnny’s age, reading stories is about much more than just the cute characters. Children can even learn social skills and develop empathy from listening to stories being read to them. In preschool and kindergarten, their little minds are also coming to grips with the world around them. One of the best gifts we can give our young children is exposure to books and text. This week we tried out the Mrs. Wordsmith program. I love that it makes it so easy for parents to raise literate children, by supplying monthly deliveries of colorfully designed, print-rich vocabulary building activities. Whether you choose to buy a curriculum like Mrs. Wordsmith or work with your child on your own, try these easy and fun ways to encourage reading skills.
Understanding Concepts about Print
Concepts about print is a fancy term for a simple skill. Basically, it’s knowing that “f” is a letter and “”funny” is a word. It’s knowing that you turn the pages of a book from right to left and read across a page from left to right, from the top of the page to the bottom. Parents can help their children develop concepts of print by reading stories with their child. For “homework”, try writing your child’s name and counting how many letters are in it. Or use magnetic letters to build your child’s name and words for familiar objects. If you choose to use Mrs. Wordsmith, you can use the picture cards in your monthly kit to identify letters and words. The kit’s Word of the Day Activity Book also has different things children do with words, like find the letters that appear in a word, tracing around the word, and drawing pictures to show what a word means.
“Reading” the Pictures
All good children’s books have pictures. Pictures help early readers figure out what’s happening in a story when they don’t fully understand the vocabulary. If I’m being honest, I get bored of reading the same story for the millionth time. But this actually helps children grow as readers. When the story is predictable (especially if they’ve heard it read a million times), they can use the pictures to retell it to you. Retelling is a hugely important skill in young readers. It gives children an opportunity to use the vocabulary from the story and shows that they understood it. After having heard the Mrs. Wordsmith stories a few times, Johnny was readily using words like “collaborate” as he summarized the story for me.
Asking and answering Questions
When you’re reading to your child, do you ask them questions? The questions don’t have to be deeply philosophical. While Johnny and I read our Mrs. Wordsmith stories, I ask him to look at the picture and tell me how the character is feeling and other simple questions about the plot. When in doubt, use the 5 W’s – who, what, where, why, when… and how 😉 . Encourage your child to make predictions about what might happen next. Connect it to their lives with, “How do you feel when that happens to you?” On each page of the Mrs. Wordsmith stories there is a question to ask your child. I asked Johnny how he knows he is hungry, and his adorable response was, “when I’m hungry, my tummy rumbles”. Awww….
Using Grown-Up Words
Vocabulary and reading go hand in hand. U.S Department of Education studies have shown that a child’s vocabulary in the early grades directly impacts his reading performance in the upper grades. I sometimes catch myself using babyish talk with my 3-year-old, but to truly give him an advantage in school it’s best to ditch the baby talk and use “grown-up words”. It’s funny, now that we’re working on a Mrs. Wordsmith word a day, I’ve been making an effort to use more sophisticated vocabulary than usual. I’m not sure how well that’s going for me, but Johnny has learned a lot. I was surprised to learn that he didn’t know the word starving. I was sure I used that word almost daily at lunch time!
Create Your Own Activities or Purchase a Workbook?
Parents, you absolutely have what it takes to teach your child early literacy skills. You can and should be reading with your child at home. Additionally, consider adding a reading activity kit like Mrs. Wordsmith. For $22.49, your child will get a monthly set that includes a picture book, workbook, a stand to display your word of the day, and sturdy vocabulary word cards. The products are research-based, helping you set a strong foundation for literacy as well as social and emotional development.
I’ve seen a lot of reading programs in my 12 years of teaching, and I find Mrs. Wordsmith to be high-quality and pretty comprehensive. Bright, colorful pictures bring the words and stories to life. The vocabulary words can be used in everyday conversation, and Johnny loves to sit at the table with me and “do his homework” in his workbook. 🙂
Click over to the website and read some of the testimonials. While you’re there, enjoy 10% off your first month with the code SimplySweetDays10.
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