How Kids Learn to Read
(why there’s no need to worry and what we can do to nudge it along)
To read & comprehend kids need phonemic awareness, phonics, and the ability to communicate what they’ve read. There’s a lot of pressure for kids to be early readers, however laying on pressure can do more harm than good if reading loses its element of fun. It’s ok if they don’t master the skill early on. Dr. Paige, professor at Lesley University reassures us that, “Children have to go through a process where they become ready, and it happens at different speeds.”
Here’s how we can keep reading fun and set the stage without kids even knowing it:
1. Pretend Play fosters pre reading skills. It helps kids learn new words, and oral language is the basis for written language.
2. Rhythm of Reading ~ Rhymes are helpful because they aid in gaining phonemic awareness. Songs are also a great way to expose kids to the rhythm of reading. The best part is you can leave the kiddie songs at the door. Any song they can understand will work.
3. Predictable Print ~ Reading stories every night, especially favorites, is key. It’s how kids learn to properly hold a book, that print goes left to right, and how to turn pages. Predictable print allows kids to match words to what they see in the book and helps them figure out how reading really works. Kids won’t be able to put a letter to a sound until they are first able to recognize it.
4. Language Building ~ Teachers from the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University suggest that a bigger vocabulary is more closely related to reading comprehension than knowledge of letter sounds. Mixing in a wide variety of words and definitions into everyday conversations is one of the best ways to help children on reading comprehension tests later.
5. Story Creation ~ Telling stories helps children understand that narratives have a beginning, middle, and end. Trading off story telling between the two of you can become a fun game. Using interesting pictures as story starters can add another element of fun.
When children are in kindergarten or 1st grade, there can be legitimate concerns when no progress is seen over the course of several months. When that is the case, meet with the teacher to discuss interventions and testing. However, if your child is in kindergarten or even younger, just keep following the steps above. Eventually, reading will click.
I’d love to know your favorite “tricks” to build pre-reading skills…
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