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Preparing Your Child: Reading

Preparing your child for reading is important. Students who are ready to read have an advantage when they start school. Get tips on how to get your child interested in reading and prepare him or her to participate in a school reading curriculum.

Reading readiness is a combination of development and experience. A child’s development, to some extent, happens in its own time, but as parents, we can provide crucial experiences that will foster readiness for and interest in reading.

Oral Language

Oral language is natural and is composed of sound sequences. Written language is a way of recording oral language. We can see from this that children’s readiness for reading will be based to a large extent on breadth of and competence in oral language.

There are many ways to encourage your child’s oral language development. First of all, talk to your child. At first, this is going to be monologue, but don’t think that just because they can’t answer your, nothing is happening. By speaking to your child, you help them recognize the speech sounds of English, patterns of emphasis, and all kinds of elements of language that we don’t think about consciously most of the time.

Besides speaking, consider reading or reciting poetry and singing. Besides the potential for soothing, poetry and lyrics are likely to introduce other facets of language, an important one being rhyme.

Read stories aloud to your child. And besides reading the text, you can talk about the pictures, and ask them to interact with the book - which they will likely be able to do before they can speak. Questions like, “Can you point to the kitten?” or “Where’s the airplane?” will help them to attach words to objects and grasp the concept of naming.

More Gain from Reading

Stories Besides providing an opportunity to hear oral language, reading stories gives children an opportunity to learn story structures, what it means to have a beginning, middle, and end. This is another important facet of reading.

Children also learn from book reading about right-side up and upside-down, and reading left to right, and which way the pages turn: that is, they learn about the orientation of reading. You can allow them early access to this by providing them with cardboard or cloth books that are virtually indestructible, instead of books with paper pages, if you’re concerned about ripping.

The Alphabet Song

Because the song makes it easier to remember the 26 letter names, it’s a good way to provide the background for children to learn the letter shapes and attach them to names. In many families, the parents teach the oldest child and it then gets passed from child to child, sometimes with a parental boost. When it’s taught by one child to another, it often happens in the context of “playing school.” You should know that even though the older child is reviewing what they already know when they “teach school,” it’s still a valuable activity to them, both for reinforcing their knowledge and learning how to put concepts in their own words.

Print Awareness

Grocery labels, signs, posters, advertisements - we live in a society surrounded by print. Whatever you think about the signage or the ads, you can make use of them to help your child get ready to read. Often, parents will write a child’s name for him or her - on a piece of artwork, to help him or her “sign” a card to grandma or grandpa, or for other reasons. The letters in the child’s name are often some of the first known, for this reason, and you can encourage the child to find them anywhere there are letters - in books, on cereal boxes, or on road signs.

Eventually, you can introduce the roadtrip game in which everybody has to look for a word beginning with each letter of the alphabet in sequence, adapting it as suitable.

Next Steps

Once children are ready, they can begin to learn that letters represent sounds (usually more than one, so that’s a bit complicated) and when strung together in predictable ways (dog is always spelled d-o-g in English) they can represent words. They may do this at home with you taking an active role, while playing school with a sibling, in preschool, or in school.

If your child is proceeding quickly and you’re not sure what to do next and/or if your child is approaching school age and not seeming to grasp one or more of these concepts, you may wish to speak to someone at your local elementary school or at the state department of education for some guidance, or if local screenings for school readiness are offered, take your child to one.

Written by Mary Elizabeth.