As a parent, you want to make sure your child starts kindergarten feeling confident, enthusiastic, and ready to learn to read.
There’s a lot that kids can learn about books and reading long before they start school. Read on to learn about the building blocks of early literacy, and how you can help your child get off to a great start with learning to read.
3 Key Skills for Getting Ready to Read
Here are three early literacy skills that will make learning to read easy and fun and get your child ready for the first day of kindergarten:
- Print awareness. Young children need to learn some basic things about how books work. For example, they learn that the funny little marks they see on the page are letters and words, and that words are speech written down. They learn that you read a book by turning pages from left to right. Your child will build print awareness just by spending time with books—flipping the pages, looking at pictures, and listening to you read aloud.
- Phonemic awareness. Before kids can learn to read, they need to be able to hear each sound in a spoken word. For example, the word big is made up of three sounds: /b/ at the beginning, /ĭ/ in the middle, and /g/ at the end. (A letter between two slashes indicates the letter sound.) Your child will learn about letter sounds in kindergarten, but he or she can start now by having fun with words and sounds, making up nonsense words, and playing with rhymes.
- Recognizing letters. This usually begins with the alphabet song, when kids learn to name the letters. Then they start learning the shapes of the letters, beginning with the letters in their name. Some kids start to write letters as well. Your child doesn’t need to learn the alphabet perfectly now, but it’s great to get a head start.
Building these three skills early on will have a big payoff in kindergarten. Keep in mind, though, that the goal isn’t for your child to master these skills right now. This stage is all about exposure. The best way for your child to learn is to do what comes naturally: to play, be curious, and have fun exploring books and language.
Developing a Love of Books and Reading
Instilling a love of books and reading in your child will lay a strong foundation for learning to read successfully.
The single best way to help your child fall in love with books is to do a lot of reading aloud. Picture books, with their exciting stories and beautiful illustrations, are perfect for this. Your child will get so swept up by the stories that it feels like he or she is inside the book. It’s an experience that your child will want to have again and again.
Developing a love of reading has powerful benefits. First, we know that it makes learning to read much easier and faster. Second, it will motivate your child to learn to read—kids who love hearing stories want to be able to read them on their own. Finally, by listening to stories now, your child will build comprehension and vocabulary before he or she even starts reading!
Helping Your Child Start Strong
You know you want your child to start kindergarten excited about books and ready to learn to read. So what can you do now? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to be a teacher to help your child get off to a strong start. Here are some simple things that you, as a parent, can do better than anyone else:
- Make reading aloud a part of your routine. Do some reading every day. It helps to pick a regular time, like bedtime. Talk about what’s happening in the story and in the pictures as you read. Follow your child’s lead and keep it relaxed and fun.
- Make sure you have lots of books around the house, so your child can read with you or look at books on his or her own. When you see your child reaching for books, you’ll know he or she is on the way to being a reader.
- Make sure your child gets lots of experience with letters. Kids love toys that involve letters, like puzzles, blocks, and magnets. Or, you can draw big block letters for your child to color and decorate. When you’re out and about, point out letters you see on signs.
- Have fun playing with words and sounds. Talk about words that rhyme, or play games with beginning sounds. For example, you choose something nearby that starts with a certain sound, like /m/, and then have your child guess what it is. Games like this are fun and easy and make a big difference!
The more you can make books and reading a part of your child’s life now, the easier learning to read will be. Taking a few minutes to read a book, talking about letters and sounds—these are simple, enjoyable activities that add up to an amazing payoff. Your child will love books, and he or she will head into kindergarten feeling confident and excited about learning to read.