Parents often ask me what they should do at home to support their child’s learning at school. They often want to jump into teaching their children letters and numbers. But one very important aspect of preparing children to learn to read is the verbal side of language.
First and foremost, a strong vocabulary is essential to laying a strong foundation for reading. Don’t shy away from using “big” words with children. Use many descriptive terms in your speech and don’t water down language into “baby talk.”
|Reading to Children|
Read a variety of books to enrich your child’s language. Be sure to stop and discuss the meaning of words in the text. Discuss the story and ask questions to test your child’s comprehension – not only the facts of the narrative but also any underlying themes and messages. Invite children to think about the story from the character’s point of view. Ask them to imagine they were one of the characters and talk about how they might think or feel. You can even invent alternate endings or variations of the story for fun. The goal is to keep children engaged and developing not only vocabulary but critical thinking skills as well.
While it’s tempting to teach the alphabet to children, it’s better to focus on pre-reading skills such a games for phonemic awareness. This helps children hear and isolate the sounds (phonemes) that are in words, preparing them for sound and letter recognition later. One game to play at home is a very simple verbal game that can be played anywhere. The adult thinks of a 3-letter phonetic word with the CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant pattern). Examples include hat, dog, wet, big, fun, zip, vet, log, etc. The adult says the word out loud and asks the child “what is the first sound you hear in cat”? The adult should keep repeating the word out loud, even emphasizing the first sound. Once the child can say /k/ is the first sound in cat, then move on to another word.
Once the child has mastered identifying the first sound in words, then ask the child to identify the last sound in the word. Work with that until the child is comfortable. This could take days or weeks. Just keep practicing. Once the child is comfortable identifying the first and last sound, then ask the child to identify the middle sound. Like the others, this may need to be repeated for days or even weeks. If the child cannot guess/isolate the sound, then simply say it out loud for them. The final goal of this is for the child to do all three parts with a single word. Once a child has mastered naming all three parts of a CVC phonetic word you can even introduce advanced variations that are still 3-sounds but are not phonetic, for example words such as home, line, foot, dune, shine, that, etc as long as you can isolate to just 3 sounds/phonemes.
In further blogs I will give more ideas to support pre-reading skills.
Use rich language, read and discuss books with your child, play some phonemic awareness games and your child will have a strong foundation to prepare them for learning the skills needed for reading!