When your kids learn to read it’s such a monumental event in their lives. A whole amazing world opens up them! They can do so many more things than they could before, all on their own. We know that one of your kid’s school’s primary jobs is to teach your kids to read, but what if they are having trouble catching on? Or what if they need some ezra support? Or what if you want to give them a leg up before they start school? There are so many things you can do (and many you probably already are!) to help your emerging reader be successful.
Did you know in my “past life” I taught 1st grade? Yup! For 7 years in fact and I loved it but was so excited for the opportunity to stay hoe with my kids. I even tutored in reading for an additional few years too- so I feel I have a decent amount of authority to give you some solid advice on simple things you can do to help your kids be the very best readers they can! The most important thing to remember is that part of learning to read is developmental and kids learn at their own pace so don’t stress if they are not reading before kinder, or a bit behind their peers. I noticed a HUGE jump in so many of my first graders in the spring of the school year- it’s like a light just popped on for them! But, don’t be fooled, like WILL NOT learn to read just on their own, they need lots of help and support BOTH at school and home. Always remember to talk with your child’s teacher about any concerns you have- it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Here are ten simple things you can do with your kids at home to help them become better readers in life!
1. Read, read, read, read, read with your kids! I started reading to my kids from birth- you may think that a newborn can’t enjoy hearing “Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?” but they do!! They hear you voice, feel your touch and these one-on-one moments set them up for reading more stories when they are bigger. In my opinion, kids never grow out of listening a story; just the type of story they like to hear changes! Kids gain SO MUCH from hearing stories: they hear fluent reading, learn about story structure and elements, they gain comprehension skills and so much more. I read to my kids every day, usually more than one story, but at the minimum one every night.
2. Read a variety of types of texts to them. Don’t just read picture books to them, read non fiction, poems, chapter books, nursery rhymes, character books and even kids magazine articles! The more the better.
3. Have lots of books on hand for kids to look at on their own, especially some at their “just right” level. All kids should have at least one basket of books they can look at, read and love. You don’t have to buy new; head to a second hand shop and pick some up cheap and also the library. Being a former teacher I would say, no joke, we have probably close to 500 kids books (or more!) between what they have and my classroom books and we go to the library every few weeks! They love picking out new and interesting books for us to enjoy. If you have a developing reader in kinder or 1st, it’s so important to have books they can “read” on their own. Try and find books that have big pictures that match the text and lots of words they know. Not sure if it’s at your kids level? Try the 5 finger test: have them read a page or two and hold up a finger for each word they don’t know- if they get to 5, chances are it’s not at their level.
4. Practice sight words. Ask your child’s teacher for a list of words they should know by the end of the year and practice with them- use flash cards, make games out of, read them in the car; whenever you can! The more practice the better- but don’t overdo it so they shut down. Even 5 minutes a day is plenty!
5. Use your environment. One of the first things your kids will learn in school is about “environmental print” which is all the words they see around them, like STOP! on the stop sign. When you are out, ask them what the signs say- you’ll be surprised at how many they know and they’ll be building their confidence!
6. Sounds are all around. One of the most major parts of learning to read is understanding that letters make sounds and those sounds fit together to make words. Start teaching your kids what sounds each letter makes by working with letters they know really well, like the first letter of their first name. “Abby starts with A! A says AH-AH. That’s the short A sound. What else starts with that sound? Apple, Alligator!”
7. Play rhyming games. PBS kids is right, rhyming is cool and helps you get ready for school! Learning that words rhyme teach kids all about forming words and the sounds that make them up. Read rhyming books (like Dr. Seuss!) and play games together. Star with one word and then have your child think of a word that rhymes with it. When they are really little, it’s even ok if it’s not technically a “word”- they will be having fun creating a list of silly words too.
8. Do some “shared reading”. Shared reading is a great tool that early education teachers will use to help introduce text to kids and to help reinforce fluent reading. Pick a short book or even a poem and read it a few times: You read it first, then your child can “echo” you (you read then they copy), then you and your child read it together at the same time, and lastly have them read it on their own. Reading the text multiple times will help reinforce the words and help them to become apart of their word repertoire.
9. Ask questions about what you are reading. Whether they are reading to you or if you are reading to them, stop every few pages and ask them about the story: Who are the characters? Where’s the story taking place? What do you think will happen next? These questions will help to build their early comprehension skills all while teaching them about story structure and elements. You don’t have to do this every time, but add it in occasionally!
10. Don’t be too quick to tell your emerging reader a word they don’t know! Give them a chance to figure it out on their own. If they get really stuck, help them to sound it out or encourage them to use the picture to figure it out. Don’t let them struggle with it and get frustrated, but a little thinking time can’t hurt!
By adding in some of these simple tricks, you’ll have a budding reader in no time! There’s few greater joys can listening to your child read on their own- I just love it.
What can you add to the list? What tricks to you use to help your kids grow as readers?