Before they even head to Pre-K, your child is learning how to read. It may not seem like it, but through play and osmosis children start developing literacy skills before they’re two. Teaching your child how to read may seem daunting, but, in all likelihood, you’re already doing it! Here’s a quick breakdown on ways to help your child down the literary path.

Knowing When They’re Ready

As with many progressive steps, your children will exhibit behaviors that let you know they are ready to start reading, these are known as “pre-reading skills”. Here’s a few to be on the lookout for:

  • Motivation – When your child starts showing interest in reading or asks for you to read specific books to them (a bit more on this later)
  • Narrative Skills – When your child starts being able to retell stories or events from their day and uses more detail in describing people or things.
  • Print Awareness – When your child shows that they understand the concept of a book, knowing which way to hold them, turning the pages and showing some awareness that the words have a value, even though they cannot read them.
  • Letter and Phonological Awareness – This is when children begin to recognize different letters as representing different sounds (C is for Cat, for example) and that words have a specific rhythm (clapping along while breaking down syllables)

Motivating Your Children to Read

This is a great way to start your child down a literary path and is a wonderful way to spend time together. From the time their young, children mock the behaviors and patterns of their caregivers and being read to is no exception. Incorporating reading into your daily activities helps to create a pattern for children – try reading out a grocery list, or even a boring work email – but with a light and cheery tone that establishes your “reading voice”. Don’t be afraid to include words your child will not understand, speak slowly and enunciate each syllable so that it registers with your little one. Set aside time during the day or at bedtime to read a few pages from a book. As your children get older they will have a collection of the books they enjoy having read to them, and you can start to assess their comprehension level.

Learning through Play

As we’ve discussed before, one of the best ways to teach and help your children retain new information is through repetitive games. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The Matching Game – Write out six words on six index cards and place them on the floor. Go through each card with your child, first saying the word and then asking them to describe what it is. Once you have gone through all of the cards turn them over so the blank side is facing you. Flip cards over one at a time and ask your child what the card says, giving clues from their descriptions if they don’t know right away.
  • Draw it Out – Pick a hard consonant and repeat it slowly to your child. While doing that, have him or her draw what they think the letter looks like based on the sound. They may have associated it with a word they recognize it from or they might surprise you and draw something abstract. Ask them to explain why they drew the letter the way they did, and then move on to another one.
  • Rhyming – You can start this with a simple poem or chant, anything by Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein is a winner in my house, and repeat each phrase with your children until they have it almost memorized. From there you can start throwing out your own words like “Sit” or “Fun” anything that is short and easy to rhyme and see what your child responds with. Once you’ve got the hang of this, write down the words on flash cards and pair the ones that rhyme, reviewing each with your child. Mix them up and ask your little student to try and pick one of the words, say it out loud and you match it to the rhyming word, then switch roles with you picking and repeat!

Interactive Story Time

One fun way to help your child get more comfortable with reading is to work with the skills they have already developed, making reading a natural extension of those skills. Start by reading a few pages of one of your favorite storytime books and have your child draw a picture of what they imagine is happening. Once they’re done, have them explain the drawing to you, the goal being to see how much of the story they retained. If you have a child who is more of a kinetic than a spatial learner, have them act out the scene that you just read, narrating as they do it. Once you’ve gone over their interpretation, re-read the story again with them looking at the text and point out the words they focused on when retelling the story.