Beginning to read is one of the most exciting times in your child’s development! As a kindergarten teacher, I love getting to experience the joy and excitement that this milestone brings to they grow as readers.
1) Create a special daily reading time - As children begin to read, it is important to support their progress and encourage their development. Consider setting up a daily time to share books together. This might include your child reading to you or you reading a story to him. Keep in mind that as children begin to read their ‘reading’ might be through the pictures. This involves the student looking at the pictures instead of the words and telling a story that matches the pictures. This is an important and powerful step in the reading process and should be encouraged at all levels of reading development. Create a schedule that works for your family and then stick to it! Do your best to never skip a day and keep this as the time that you get to share together, even if you need to Skype or FaceTime in!
2) Get to know your child as a reader - Children either learn to read phonetically (by blending letter sounds together to make words ie: stretching it out) or through a whole language approach (learning to identify words and phrases and using them along with meaningful context). Take the time to learn which approach your child prefers and also what interests her as a learner. If she prefers a phonetical approach, spend time at home with her playing letter games and manipulating small words. These games do not need to be store-bought and should not feel like work. They can be as simple as drawing with chalk, throwing a ball into a cup with a letter/word on it, creating a relay race, etc. While there are endless possibilities to teach phonics, you want to make sure that you incorporate ideas that meet your child's interests and will spark excitement. These might include singing or dancing, sports or athletics or art. If your child prefers to learn through a whole language approach, spend time at home working on sight word recognition. This can be done through simple flashcards but can also include similar games and approaches as listed above. For most students, some exploration with both approaches will be the most successful way to help them grow.
3) Incorporate natural experiences - While it is important to set aside time to read and play phonics/sight word games, don’t forget that children are learning every second of every day. Some of the most meaningful reading exposure your child will receive will happen throughout your normal everyday activities. If you are intentional about it, there are opportunities all around you! Have your student help you find products at the grocery store, read the menu at a restaurant or find letters in the newspaper. In addition, as reading and writing are so closely related, having your child practice writing will also help him to develop as a reader. This can also be done naturally and might include writing a note to a teacher or friend, helping add to the shopping list or making posters for his room. These ideas should encouraged and supported but not forced.
4) Communication - A child’s vocabulary and language skills are crucial to his or her reading development. Children who regularly converse with others are learning through this process and working on their language skills. In life and during reading time be sure to stop and discuss/ask questions and promote critical thinking skills.
5) Be positive and patient - Reading comes easily to some students and is more challenging for others. Keep in mind that reading is a developmental process and will come to most students in time. When you are reading with your child be sure to celebrate her successes, praise her efforts and support her as needed. Time that is spent reading together should be a magical and special time for both of you. If it begins to feel stressful or frustrating take the time to stop and revisit what you are doing and why it is challenging. As you are building a life-longer reader, his motivation and attitude will not only impact his current reading development but also how he will view it throughout life. It is also powerful for your child to see you reading independently and often. This might be you looking at a cookbook for information, reading the morning newspaper or reading for entertainment. Children model those they admire the most and will look to you to develop their own attitude and motivation towards reading.
Jenna Gow is a kindergarten teacher at Riverview Charter School in Beaufort. She is also the co-owner of Memorable Reflections Photoboth.