Guest Post – Six Early Reading Skills Your Children Need To Learn

by beagooddad on June 20, 2007

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Why should you take you toddler to the library? The simplest reason is that they love books.

Another reason is because seeing books increases their interest in books, enjoying books increases the chances they will learn to read and reading lots of books increases their chances of being strong readers.

Toddlers love to practice talking. By asking them questions about the stories, drawing attention to the pictures, the action, and characters you are increasing their language skills. You are also beginning to develop their reading skills.

Six early reading skills form the base that kids use to learn how to read and write. They are Print Motivation, Vocabulary, Narrative Skills, Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge and Phonological Awareness.

Why are these so important?

I think it is so important because the better your child’s reading skills are, the more successful he will be in his entire life. That is a pretty strong statement but I believe it is true. Twenty years of teaching first graders to read and raising 3 successful children to adulthood makes my opinion worth considering.

What is Print Motivation?

Print motivation means that enjoying the text and pictures in books will make children curious about how to read. They will want more.

Here are some ideas of things you can do with your children to promote print motivation.

  • Let your child see you read and show him that reading is FUN!
  • Let your kid check out books that interest him or her, not just what you think he or she should read. Many of my students “read ” the pictures in nonfiction books that were way too hard for them to read.
  • It’s boring to read the same book over and over again but children enjoy and learn from books no matter how many times you have read it.
  • Create a fun reading atmosphere. Turn off the TV and music and create a cozy, special space just for reading.
  • Snuggle. Your child will associate those feelings of warmth and safety with reading activities.
  • Leave books in every room of your home and take them with you when you go out.
  • It’s ok to read for short periods of time. Any amount of time is beneficial.

What is vocabulary?

Vocabulary is just a big word that means the names of things. The more words children hear, the more connections they can make when they listen to stories and learn to read. They know they are reading a word correctly if they have heard it before.

You Can:

  • Read books with words new to your family.
  • Use what your child says to add to her vocabulary. For example, if she says “Look, tree!” You can say, “Yes, look at the leaves…it has skinny needles.”
  • Talk about everyday things with your kids. “We’re going to buy some fruit. Look at the shiny red apples. Can you say apple? Can you put three apples in the bag? Say one, two, three! Good job!”
  • Label feelings-yours and your child’s. Choose books about feelings. Encourage your children to talk about their own feelings.

What is Narrative Skills?

Next, Narrative Skills is being able to understand and tell stories. Kids must be able to describe things. It helps them understand what they are learning to read.

Some activities you could do to encourage this skill include:

  • Name things (both real things and pictures in books). Make a game about naming things. Add humor and praise.
  • Color, number, size words, etc. can teach description.
  • Talk about your daily activities and jobs – say what you are doing or thinking as you do it.
  • Keep photo albums or scrapbooks of family events. As you and your child look through them, tell the story of what happened, using a beginning, middle and end. Let your child retell the story in his own words.
  • Retelling is very important. Ask kids to retell riddles, jokes, events and stories.

What is Print Awareness?

Print Awareness is noticing print everywhere, knowing how to handle a book and follow the words on a page or item. Cheerios, Pizza Hut, Wal-Mart and Stop are just examples. Look for them, talk about them, list them, count them. Use every opportunity to talk about environmental print. Print is all around!

Most English books open right to left, read left to right and top to bottom. As kids get comfortable with books they will naturally “read” them right side up and front to back. Let them help you turn the pages.

Sometimes you should show them with your finger the words that you are reading (left to right…called tracking). This helps them learn that you are reading the text not the pictures and demonstrates reading text from left to right.

What is Letter Knowledge?

Letter Knowledge is learning that letters are different from each other, that each letter has a name, and that specific sounds go with specific letters.

  • Enjoy ABC books; sing the alphabet song.
  • What letter does your child’s name start with? What is the child interested in? In the beginning, don’t try to learn the letters in order.
  • Children learn through play; use play dough, foam letters, magnetic letters, finger paint, spaghetti, shaving cream, etc. to learn letters.
  • Find letters all around; inside and outside of the home.

What is Phonological Awareness?

Last, Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words. It helps kids sound out words as they learn to read. When they understand that many words are made up of smaller sounds it allows them to “break the code” between letters and sounds.

To help your child with phonological awareness you can:

  • Sing songs. Songs have different notes for each syllable, helping children break down words in a fun way.
  • Read rhyming books, repeat rhymes and make up silly rhymes.
  • Play rhyming games, and make up rhyming poems.

I expect that after reading these ideas you are saying to yourself, “I do that!” “I thought of that already.” “Nobody had to tell me that!” I believe that most parents are doing their best to help their kids become strong readers and what I have written here will just explain to them exactly why they instinctively knew how to do it. Congratulations!

[Mom is my mother-in-law. She doesn’t have a blog…yet.]

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