Pre-school reading and kindergarten curriculums in most public schools teach the alphabet and its corresponding sounds. However, today more and more school districts are assessing children's letter name and corresponding sound knowledge prior to enrollment. Why? Because most children come to school with this knowledge. Many children's television programs teach this content and many parents take it upon themselves to teach their children these concepts as well.
Ironically, even though public school curriculums teach these concepts, schools consider children who have not mastered these concepts to be behind their peers. Therefore, parents should consider applying the following strategies to help their young children get ready to read:
1. Buy a set of alphabet letters cards. Put them at the children's eye level, on the wall, where your children can easily see them everyday. Review the letter names, in groups of seven, daily. Say the letter name and letter sound of each card. IMPORTANT! A letter sound is a small, short sound. Don't add vowel sounds after consonants. "C" sound like "k" not CAA. It's not Ca ba da! It's "c" "b" "d". When your child masters a set of seven, go onto another set of seven. If you're unsure about teaching your children letter-sounds, DON'T! Leave it to the classroom teacher.
2. Buy a set of magnetic alphabet letters and put them on the refrigerator. Let your children play with them. Some children are tactile learners. That is, touching the letter shape helps them process and learn the letter's name.
3. Write your children's names in block and stick letters (manucript) clearly and uniformly. And put this on their bedroom doors. NO CURSIVE! Remember, your children are learning a code. Think of it this way - if you were learning and new language that had a different written alphabet (such as Chinese), in order for you to learn this new code/ symbol, the symbols would need to be exactly the same every time in order for you to recognize them and memorize them.
4. Help your children write their names in other ways. Write their names for them, then let them trace over this. Small children have limited motor skills but encourage them to pick up a crayon or large pencil and try to trace the letters.
5. Start reading to your children as soon as they can focus their eyes on the book. Read simple board books every day. Introducing the concept of reading early on sends the message that reading is an important skill. You are also introducing and re-enforcing classroom behaviors such as sitting quietly and listening.
6. Read your children's favorite books over and over. Start pointing to the words. The muscles in children's eyes are not fully developed until they are about ten or eleven years old. When you point to the words, you are helping them track along. That is, keeping their place on the page. Also, they hear the word, see the word, then eventually recognize the word. Thus, they develop some sight word capability.
7. Put books in your car. While you drive, let your children entertain themselves turning the pages and looking at the pictures. Change your selection of books regularly.
8. Write notes to family members and young children who are not yet reading. They will feel included and be motivated to learn to read so they can participate (of course read the notes to them until they learn to read).
9. Take your children to the library. Let them pick out books they want you to read to them. Also, choose books you will enjoy reading aloud to them.
10. Buy your children books for presents. Wrap them up in bright paper. After they rip the paper off, read the books to them.
Children who make the connection early on that the sounds and words we make with our mouth can be converted to written letters or words have a much easier time learning to read. By teaching your children the alphabet, reading to them and creating a rich, literate home environment, you are sending the message that reading is an important skill. One they will be eager to learn.
Carol Boles has a master's degree in Special Reading and an Educational Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She has over ten years experience teaching K-12 reading in public schools. She now manages her own business and is a member of The Lieurance Group, a freelance writers cooperative. Find out more about her writing services at http://www.lieurancegroup.blogspot.com or email her at Cwritesfirstname.lastname@example.org
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