Did you know that children who struggle to read are more likely to drop out of school early, and less likely to find well paid, skilled work. Did you also know that the foundations for a child learning to read are developed prior to a child even starting school – or even kindergarten??
The good news is that reading is a skill parents can very easily get their child prepared for, during day to day activities in early childhood. This guide is going to show you how from newborn to new entrant.
Talk, talk, talk (and sing)
When my daughter was a baby I used to pop her on a mat whilst I was doing household jobs and tell her ALL about what I was doing. For example;
Mummy is hanging out the washing today. I am hanging out daddy’s blue pants, now this is mummy’s pretty red top. Can you hear the bird churp churp churping?
And so on, you get the picture. Make sure you have animation and inflection in her voice. Make your voice almost sing-song so that baby picks up on how sentences are structured i.e. questions, statements, showing concern, excitement, sadness etc.
Introduce the alphabet early and often
Start with the basics of A, B, C. You will notice the alphabet puzzle Nurture Box uses is lowercase – it is best to seek out lowercase letter resources first. Children can be introduced to capitals later. Create your own alphabet chart with pictures for each letter – make either the letter or picture with a velcro back so that your child can practice which objects starts with which letter.
Now as we learn to read we realise the name of a letter and the sound it makes can be quite different. So as you teach your child the alphabet it is very important to teach the sound alongside that.
Be mindful to choose words as examples which have the simplest sound the letter makes. For example ‘Ttttt tail’ not ‘Ttttt thorn’ or ‘Aaaaa ant’ not ‘Aaaa aardvark’.
The final stage of this is to sound out a whole word;
CCCC AAAA TTTTT is CAT. Say the word slowly, each letter individually at first, and then get quicker and quicker until it is recognisable by your child. Over time you will get them to sound out the letters in the word until they are reading!
Read at least two books on most days of the week
This is the single most important activity you can do with your child. Help your child to know which way around a book should be read, where is the front cover where is the back cover? What direction do the words go? Get your child to point to different pictures on the page, describe their favourite character, or point to different parts of a sentence, such as a full stop or quotation mark. For older children you could say “which part of the paragraph show the words the boy is saying?” then ask them how they knew that.
Ask open ended questions
This really helps your child’s comprehension of what they read. As we all know reading the words is just the beginning – from there a child needs to actually understand the meaning behind the sentences being read!
The questions you ask will depend on your child’s vocabulary and learning style. Some children will enjoy telling you all about their day. Instead of saying ‘did you have fun today?’ (which will typically be met with a yes/no response), try and say ‘where did you go today?’ ‘what did you do there?’, ‘how did you get there?’, ‘who did you play with’, ‘what did you see?’. You can ask children about what is currently happening – take them on a walk or into the yard and ask them to describe things around them. ‘What birds can you see?’, ‘what is your favourite flower in the garden?’etc. Make sure if they answer with ‘this one’ you get them to describe it a bit more ‘what do you like about it?’ ‘what colour is it?’ etc.
When it comes to reading books you can ask questions about what is happening in the story. You could say “where is the monkey?” and coach your child to describe where the monkey is rather than simply saying “there”. To quiz comprehension even more you could say “why is the little boy sad?” or “what do you think might happen next?”
Play word and letter matching games
Ask your child what they did that day and then make it into a simple sentence or two. An example could be ‘I went to the park’ or ‘We walked the dog’. Write the sentence twice. Take the first copy and cut it up into individual words. Get your child to match the words so that they put the cut up sentence back together.
To advance this game even more you can take away the copy which has all the words in order, and only give your child the sentence where the words are cut up. Help your child put the sentence back together with nothing to match it to.
To work on individual words you can use the same technique. Find a common word such as ‘cat’, ‘dog’, ‘sat’ etc. or you could use your child’s name. Make two copies of the word and with one copy cut it up into individual letters. Get your child to match the letters from the cut up copy to the one which is still together. Sound out each letter as they match them.
To advance this game you can take away the intact copy and just give your child the cut up letters then get them to spell out the word you say. Sound out each letter for them.