3 Solid Ways to Give Your Child a Great Start in Reading
All parents want to ensure their child makes a successful start in school. Yet it’s not always easy to know how to do this.
School readiness encompasses a wide range of skills. Most experts agree that an early exposure to language, books and reading is one of the most important indicators of future academic success.
Like all skills developed in early childhood, the best way to help children learn essential early reading skills is through play and enjoyment. This makes learning more meaningful, relevant and motivating for young children.
Here are three fun and highly effective ways to give your child a great start in their reading.
1. Show how words are made up of separate sounds
One of the earliest reading skills a child will develop is phonemic awareness. This is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to form words.
You don’t need to involve written words in order to teach phonemic awareness. Simple nursery rhymes can really help your child develop an ear for language.
Read and sing nursery rhymes regularly and have fun with it. Sing the same rhymes over and over to highlight the specific sounds and syllables in words.
Another fun idea is to play games like I Spy the Sound where you ask your child to spy words beginning with a certain sound. For example, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with mmm.”
When your child gets the hang of how sounds make up words, play words games based around listening, identifying and manipulating the sounds in words.
Start by using the most common letter/sound combinations. For example, choose ‘cat’ over ‘city’ if you’re trying to isolate a /c/ sound. Ask your child questions like:
What’s the beginning sound in _____?
What’s the end sound in _____?
What words start with the sound _____?
What words rhymes with _____?
2. Show the connection between written letters and spoken sounds
Phonics is different to phonemic awareness and is one of the most important parts of learning to read.
It’s the understanding of the relationship between the letters of written words and the sounds of spoken language. For example, phonics instruction involves teaching a child that the letter b represents the sound /b/, and that it is the first letter in words such as ball, boots, bear and bee.
One of the best ways for young children to begin learning phonics is through playing phonics games and activities that make the learning process fun and engaging.
A fun way to teach your child phonics is by playing a game called Letter Races.
How to play Letter Races
1. Find a magnetic board, magnetic letters and a bit of space.
2. Set up the magnetic board on one side of the room and place the letters in a basket or bowl on the other side.
3. Call out a sound and ask your child (with a ‘ready, set, go!’) to pick out the correct magnetic letter and run over as fast as they can to stick it on the board.
Another great game is Phonics Hopscotch to help further develop your child’s ability to match letters to their sounds.
How to play Phonics Hopscotch
1. Get a piece of chalk and find some space outside.
2. Draw hopscotch markings on the ground. It’s up to you how many squares to include.
3. In each square draw a letter of the alphabet. It’s a good idea to draw both the upper and lower case letters in each.
There are a number of ways to play the game:
One way to play is to call out a letter, or a combination of letters, and ask your child to jump on the correct squares. As they do this, they should sound out each letter.
A second way to play is to get your child to jump on the letters in alphabetical order, sounding them out as they go along.
The third way to play (which also builds counting skills) is to roll a die and ask your child to jump to the square that matches the number rolled, counting the squares as they jump and sounding the letter out at the end.
Reading Eggs is also a great way to build early phonics skills. The programme includes hundreds of interactive phonics games and activities designed specifically for kids aged three and older.
3. Build comprehension skills through high-quality discussion and role-play
By the time children start school they should be able to listen to and understand five to ten minutes stories. Most will be able to retell simple stories that they have heard, and some may even begin telling original stories.
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Once you’ve read a book, discuss the story and ask questions beyond literal recall of events. High-quality discussions include talking about the motives and traits of a character, predicting what might happen next, and relating themes to real-life situations.
These discussions will develop your child’s ability to infer information and build their vocabulary, language and emergent literacy skills.
In addition to high-quality discussions, a fun and effective strategy to build your child’s comprehension and inference skills is by enacting or visualising main ideas through role-play.
Encourage your child to act out a story in the right order and take on different roles. This will help them gain an understanding of narrative structure, and consider how different characters have different personalities and motivations.
Role-play is also a great way to expand your child’s vocabulary. Act out scenarios that involve different characters to introduce new words. For example if you pretend to be a teacher, use words like classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, and reading.
If you do these activities, you’re already on your way to building four of the five essential components of reading—phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension (the fifth being fluency). This will give your child a fantastic start in not just their reading, but in all aspects of their learning.
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