Teaching children to read does not begin when children are ready for school. On the contrary, the road to reading begins at birth; and some believe that the road begins even before birth. Surely proper prenatal care helps your baby develop in the womb. But aside from that, talking to your baby while s/he is in the womb is believed to be beneficial. Some researchers have found that newborns prefer the sound of their mother’s voice and the sound of their native language indicating that babies can hear in the womb.
OK so prenatal care:check; talking to the fetus:check. Baby is here, so now what? Well here is a start. Infants are able to listen, babble, coo, react, and respond. All of these are pre-reading skills.
1. Talk to your baby often. Talking to baby helps him hear the sound of language.
2. Read to your baby. Reading helps build brain connections.
3. Provide interactive toys and games that promote creativity and encourage problem solving and thinking.
4. Take turns with baby. Talk to her and then pause, giving her an opportunity to respond.
Hmmm, baby is doing just fine now. He is walking and babbling, so what’s next? Although older infants are not able to talk, they are able to comprehend and follow simple directions such as, “Bring me your shoe.”
1. Continue reading to baby. Point to and name body parts and new things. This helps build vocabulary. Even though your baby can’t talk very well, they are able to hear, understand, and process language.
2. Play games such as Peek-a-Boo. Sing songs and recite poems.
3. Allow baby to explore books (board books, cloth books, and vinyl books are great for this age group).
OK we managed to make it through the toddler years. Now I have a preschooler. What do I do now? Preschoolers are able to recognize signs such as McDonalds and Cheerios, so they are in what most people think of as the “pre-reading” stage. Here are some tips to promote pre-reading skills in preschoolers:
1. Continue reading to your child. Allow them to “read” their favorite book to you.
2. Provide your child with many opportunities to write, color, draw, and create their own stories.
3. Point out letters and words on signs in the environment that children see often such as the name of the grocery store where you shop or the street signs in your neighborhood.
4. Encourage name recognition by posting your child’s name someplace they will see it often. The letters in his/her name are likely the first that he/she will recognize.
5. Play the “Starts With” game: Say, “I see something that starts with the /d/ sound” and encourage your child to find those items. Or point out words that sound like the first letter in your child’s name. For example, if your child’s name is Mary, say, “Oh, we are having macaroni for dinner. Hey, M is for Mary and for macaroni.”
6. Play rhyming games. Children need opportunities to hear the similarities and differences in word sounds.
So, you have mastered the prenatal period, infancy, toddlerhood, and the preschool years. Is your child really ready for kindergarten? Well that is a whole different article! Happy reading!