You remember my earlier post about teaching my boys to read? Well that got me thinking, what does everyone else do to create a reader. That thought inspired an idea & I am thrilled to announce that every Wednesday for the next few months we will have a guest blogger who will share their ideas of teaching your child to read. So without further ado . . . today guest is Lilac.
My name is Lilac and I blog about early learning activities over at Learners In Bloom. I'm excited to be participating in this guest blogging series on teaching your child to read because my 3.5 year old twins have recently started reading, and I would love to dispel the myth that preschoolers who can read must be prodigies (or have really pushy parents). Here are the lessons I've learned from my experience teaching my kids to read..
Why Teach Your Preschooler to Read?
Reading is fun! We live in a print-rich society and from an early age I always pointed out words to my kids. They couldn't wait to read for themselves and be let in on the secrets of the words that surround them. You should see how excited my girls get when they read sale signs at the mall, menus at restaurants, grocery lists, and.. well.. pretty much everything!
Ever since they discovered that their peanut butter was named 'Jif' they have been constantly reading product labels. The other day they decided that the name of the baby pictured on their yogurt smoothies was 'Organic' (they read it on the label). I love seeing how much they enjoy using reading as a tool for deciphering their world. Of course reading stories to their teddy bears and their baby brother is a favorite activity, as well.
When parents put too much pressure on their children to read, it takes the fun out of it. Getting your kids excited about reading is probably the most important step to take in the whole process. Spend quality time reading books aloud together, but also point out other ways reading is used every day. Reading is not just something you do in school - reading is a part of life!
Steps to Teach Your Preschooler to Read
I started integrating early reading activities in our daily play when my kids were 18 months old. It's not an overnight process, so be patient. It took another two years of reading games and activities before everything clicked together and they really got it. Of course if you just wait until your child is 5 years old it will be a much faster journey to reading, but I think the entire process is enjoyable for both me and my kids and teaches so many other useful skills (like pattern recognition, listening skills, critical thinking, etc..). Here are the steps I took with my little ones:
1. Phonological Awareness
Phonological Awareness covers a broad spectrum of skills associated with language including rhyming, counting syllables, and identifying starting and ending sounds in words.
You can use foam letters, letter blocks, letter magnets, or sandpaper letters in your play along with various little objects. Alphabet boxes (pictured above) are a wonderful way of reinforcing beginning letter sounds. In the photo below, my daughter is tapping the syllables for the words pictured on the cards.
Letter sounds are critical for reading. All three of my kids learned their letter sounds by watching LeapFrog's Letter Factory DVD. Even my baby boy was saying all his letter sounds by 17 months thanks to this video.
There are many games you can play to practice letter sounds, like the game in the picture above where the kids need to erase the letter associated with the sound that I make.
Once the letter sounds are mastered, invent lots of games that involve putting those letter sounds together to for CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.
At first, I had to say the separate letter sounds and ask the girls to put them together, but soon the kids were able to read the individual letters and blend them together to form the words.
3. Word Families
Words that share endings (and rhyme) are in the same family. This is a critical component of learning to read which I originally missed with my kids. They had been reading CVC words for a long time, but were still sounding out each letter instead of realizing that if they recognize that a word ends with -AT, then BAT, CAT, HAT, etc.. can all be read quickly.
Activities that have the kids build words are good for showing them that rhyming words will have the same ending but a different beginning sound. We do a lot of 'magic tricks' where the kids turn cats into mats and pigs into figs.
4. Sight Words
I made the mistake of teaching my twins sight words before phonics, so they could 'read' by memorizing words, but they were not really reading because if they ran into a word they hadn't learned, they would guess. Definitely try to teach sight words at the same time or after phonics. My kids learned 45 of the most common sight words by watching Preschool Prep's Meet the Sight Words DVDs.
5. Fluency Practice
Reading gets easier with practice. The twins read books every day now and I'm noticing that they are becoming more fluent as they begin recognizing more words. At first it was hard for them to get the concept of combining phonics and sight words, but the more we practiced, the more they got the hang of it. They're also reading words with rules that we haven't formally learned yet like long vowel sounds or different vowel combinations now because they figure them out from the context. I'd say that my 3.5 year olds are somewhere between a Kindergarten and First Grade reading level right now. It's not because I constantly drilled them or because they have any amazing talent for reading, it was just a lot reading immersion through games and practice.
Keeping it Fun
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into how I taught my preschoolers to read. Even spending just a couple minutes a day playing games that develop reading skills will come a long way. It takes patience and some creativity, but the key (and I just can't stress this enough) is to have fun with it. The journey to early reading is totally worth it when you see the excitement and pride in your children's little faces as everything you've taught them clicks together and they read their first book.
Thank you to Tiffany for letting me share this post with her readers. If you would like more ideas for early learning activities, be sure to visit the Learners in Bloom Blog or Facebook Page.