6 Ways to Help Your Kids Get Ready to Read

I’m squished between two carseats, not a super comfortable place to be, but here I am anyway. My mom and dad are in the front, we are headed to find adventure at IKEA, and my daughter has a book in her hands. It’s called Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. The main character is a blue crayon who has been mistakenly labeled “Red”, confusing him and frustrating everyone else as they place expectations on him that they would of an actual red crayon. Obviously, he’s failing. All the other crayons try to suggest ways to “fix” Red. One of them suggests that he just needs to “press harder.” I ask my daughter, “What do you think would happen if he pressed harder?” and she says, without missing a beat, “He would break, mama.” Her words stop me in my tracks. She is so right. And, I think, she understands the moral of the story better than I do. (Spoiler alert: One day, another crayon asks Red to draw her an ocean, and although he’s unsure, he tries it and voila! everyone sees the value of him as a blue crayon, just as he was made. It’s a great little book.)

The other day on a podcast I love, I heard about a program called 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. They have an app that lets you track the books you read with your kids with the goal of getting to a thousand by kindergarten. I was glad to hear of the program. Research has shown several benefits of reading with your children. I won’t go in depth here, but they include: emotional bonding, opportunities to teach moral lessons and develop character, and the development of early literacy skills. Developing early literacy skills is, in my opinion, the number one way to set your kids up for success. (Number sense is super important, too. Maybe a future post on that?) Reading and writing in and of themselves are important, but they also provide the vehicle for which we do much of our learning.

Even though we’ve decided that homeschooling is not for us, it is my firm belief that parents are their children’s first, and most influential, teachers. What we show them and model for them at home has lasting impact. And reading is one of the easiest ways to teach our kids lessons and information we want them to learn while also building crucial literacy skills. There are so many children entering kindergarten without even a basic understanding of the alphabet or the sounds the letters make. It’s easy to judge parents and put the blame on them, but in my quest to be more empathetic, I’m choosing to assume positive intent. Meaning, these parents don’t mean to not teach their kiddos these things, they might just not know how. So, I thought I’d share some little things I do while reading with my children that help build early reading skills, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  1. Read the pictures: what do you see? Who and what do you think the story is about? What do you wonder about? As you’re reading, point out the words that match the pictures to make connections between pictures and the words that represent them. When my daughter comes to a word she doesn’t know on a page, the first thing she does is look to the pictures for clues, and most of the time she can guess the word correctly. Her brother loves to sit in a pile of books and just flip page after page, pointing at farm animals and mooing at the cows. Pictures say so much.
  2. Track the words with your pointer finger, or, if they are reading, have them do it. This helps build the connection between the written words and the spoken ones and keeps your eyes focused.B9C526E2-225E-403D-A5CC-C51A6E8316D3
  3. Point out punctuation. Model what your voice sounds like when you ask a question or use an exclamation mark. Read a section again but without the emphasis and talk about how it changes the tone of the sentence. It may seem odd to discuss such details like quotation marks with children who can’t read words yet, but they can notice these marks and they are capable of understanding what they signal to the reader.
  4. Ask them to predict what will happen. Prediction is a powerful strategy since it requires you to use what you already know (background knowledge) and make a guess based on evidence in the story. Also, ask them to explain their predictions: what makes you think this will happen?
  5. Extend the story. Act it out later with Legos or Little People or stuffed animals. Draw or paint a picture that connects to the story. Make connections: does this character/place/problem remind you of any other stories we’ve read? How about the illustrations? Have you seen any like them before?
  6. Just snuggle in and enjoy the story. Talk about the characters, the mistakes they make and the way they apologize when they’ve done something wrong. Talk about the lessons they learn and their feelings when other characters treat them in certain ways. Use stories to help with real situations like sharing at a play date or dealing with a friend who wasn’t very nice on the playground. Ask questions: what do you think about that? Has that ever happened to you? What should {this character} do? You will learn so much about what goes on in your little person’s brain. We were reading about Moana the other night and the words read, “Moana was lost.” My daughter looked at me and said, “No, she’s not! She’s not lost to me! She’s right there!” #allthehearteyes

Of course, I don’t do these things with every book. It would take us a bajillion years to read each one and we’d never get through bedtime. Too many “extra” things can also bog down readers, so as you read, maybe try to pepper in one or two of these strategies. Follow your kids’ interests and curiosities. We went through a whole month where we read nothing but books about sea animals, and I suspect farm animals are next for us with baby boy. Use your library, and let your child have choice in what books you check out. There’s no rule that you have to finish a book that your kiddo just isn’t into. Just put it away. The most important thing is to show your kids how fun reading is, how you can use what you learn in your actual life, and how it makes you see the world and those in it in different ways. And, don’t stop reading to them. Even big kids love to be read to. Share your favorites with them. I will be one happy mama when it is Harry Potter time in this house!

In case you missed it, here’s a list of my favorite books to read with kiddos of all different ages.

Currently Cooking: These smashed potatoes. It is grilling weather, and these are so flavorful and make the perfect side dish for a steak or chicken.

8C290703-DFE6-408F-AA17-5D5B98C79A24Reading:

5C5F928C-2538-47B2-B58D-AF0D75E878B6Finished: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. You guys. I couldn’t put this one down. It was as beautiful as it was horrific and as hopeful as it was tragic. It follows the story of Leni, who at the beginning of the book (1974) is thirteen and moves to the remote wilderness of Alaska with her mother and unstable and abusive father, a former Vietnam POW. They learn to survive the harsh winters and become part of a tight-knit community. (I would definitely not make it through an Alaskan winter!) Kristin Hannah knows how to weave a compelling story; it will be one of my favorites this year for sure.

B90EA294-03B3-4C7D-B8D1-3912934827B8Reading: On Writing by Stephen King. So, horror is not my genre, and I have not read a single Stephen King novel ever, but his book on writing is so good so far. It reads a lot like a memoir at the beginning, and I love memoirs, and the part I’m about to dive into is more about the craft of writing.

Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.

Katie

 

One thought on “6 Ways to Help Your Kids Get Ready to Read

  1. Try the Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile by Stephen King. His scary books are way to much for me – but these two are excellent. He’s a master of characterization – I think you’d enjoy them – the storytelling is captivating & the characters are sooooo captivating – even the bad ones! 💗

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