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Kindergarten Reading

This article has information on the IRA/NCTE standards that apply to kindergarten reading.  Also included in the article are reading activities for kindergarten-age students, whether they attend public, private or home-based schools.

In general, I advise looking at the national standards to help gain a general understanding of how a subject fits into a grade level. But the national standards that seem closest to reading are called the IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts. How do they fit in with Kindergarten Reading? Let’s take a look.

The IRA/NCTE Standards for English Language Arts

The IRA is the International Reading Association. The NCTE is the National Council fo Teachers of English. Together, they promulgate the national standards in the area of English Language Arts, which includes reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

There are three important ways to understand the English Language Arts standards: in summary, as a list of 12 standards, and as an extended guide to what children should know and be able to do.

In summary, the Standards for English Language Arts say that students should be able to read a broad range of texts, with knowledge of the systems and structures of language and an awareness of a variety of processes and strategies that promote understanding. Students should read for a variety of purposes ranging from informational to literary to reflective to problem solving. Students should learn to use language clearly, strategically, critically, and creatively, matching language well to a variety of contexts.

In a list, you can find the standards at the Read Write Think website here:

But it is here, in the extended guide (which you can download as a pdf) - that you can get the most information that allows understanding of reading as integrated with writing, listening, and speaking, rather than as a discrete subject. The Elementary Vignettes on page 34 of this publication are particularly helpful in this regard.

Activities to Support Kindergarten Reading

With the standards in mind, let’s look at specific activities for kindergarten reading. Keep in mind that the standards describe competent behavior that students should have by the time they leave the K-12 system. The trick is to think backwards to what you can do with kindegarten-age children that will lead to those results in due course.

Here are some standards-based activities that you can carry out with your kindergarten-age child attending a public or private school, or your homeschooled kindergartner.

  • Encourage your child to notice many places where written words are used to communicate - books, newspapers, magazines, television, websites, signs, packaging, on vehicles, on clothing - and talk about what the functions of the words are, as well as what they mean.
  • Read to your child and visit bookstores and libraries, building your own collection, if possible and paying attention to experiencing books from a variety of times and cultures and in a variety of genres and styles. Use lists of Newbery Medal and Honor books and Caldecott Medal winners, and make a point of reading books from other eras and cultural backgrounds.
  • Talk about letters and the sounds they symbolize. Practice sounding out words.
  • Use letters in artwork. Pictures could incorporate signs, have words as captions, or your child can be challenged to incorporate a letter (or multiple letters) in a drawing.
  • Tell stories and encourage your child to tell stories. Ask questions like “What happened next?” and “How did it end?” to help your child understand the parts of a story.
  • Encourage and create opportunities for role play. You may wish to create a dress-up box, which can include cast-off clothing and accessories from adults or older children or clothes and accessories that are explicitly costumes. Hint: neckties make great tails.
  • Include poems and songs in your interactions with your child. Fingerplays, nursery rhymes, and action songs are all valuable. You can get recordings featuring any of these, both from local libraries and by purchasing them.
  • Play games with words, even if not the way that the game-makers intended. Your child can take Scrabble® letters and put them in alphabetical order or use them to spell words that don’t have to fit together on the gameboard. You can buy refrigerator magnets with words, and let your child organize them: even if he or she doesn’t know what they mean, they can put some in a row and you can read them back: the results will likely be funny and engaging.
  • Play Mad Libs®, a game that has stories with various parts of speech left out so they can be supplied by the players. A scribe records them and then reads the silly story that results. It is widely thought to be a fun and effective way to teach parts of speech, or review them.