Children learn to read in first grade with often a “refresher course” of sorts in the second grade. An increasing number of parents, however, are choosing to give children a head start with a love of reading that begins during the kindergarten year or even earlier.
The love of reading and the enjoyment of learning new things in general is a legacy that cannot be matched, so here are some tips to help your child develop the interest in reading, and also some ideas for getting that jump start to a lifetime of adventure found through the pages of books.
1. Choose one or two of the child’s favorite books and make a recording of yourself reading the story onto a cassette tape. The first few times you use this method, sit with the child and follow along with one of you pointing out the words that are being read. Read slowly enough into the tape recorder so the child will be able to follow along. After doing this a few times, he or she will start recognizing the words.
If this method is being used with an older child, he can read into the recorder and then read along in the book later. Choose books for the proper age level so the child will not get overwhelmed with something that is too advanced.
2. Make reading time or a story-telling session part of every day’s activities. This is what helps to plant the seeds of desire to seek adventures in the pages of books. Once the love of reading is established, it will continue to bring enjoyment for years. Tell a story while making lunch or folding laundry with a child if there is no time to actually sit down and read a book.
3. Start reading to children from the baby stages onward. They enjoy the sound of your voice and will begin to associate books with calm and enjoyable moments. Very young children will enjoy the pictures and bright colors whether you are reading the words every time or not.
4. Don’t limit reading material to the category of books alone. Read things such as the morning cereal box, a magazine for children, and instructions on food boxes. Use the opportunity when out with the child to read road signs, menus, and supermarket aisle markers.
5. Use the library as often as possible. Children enjoy having their own library card, and they should be allowed to choose the books that will be checked out. Here again, just make sure to supervise the level of the reading material so that he will be able to read it, or at least to follow along and recognize many of the words. A slightly more advanced book is fine and often beneficial, however. Don’t jump a few grade levels ahead unless the book is for read-aloud time.
6. For older children, have word games such as Boggle or Scrabble around the house, and play them when there is an opportunity. Crossword puzzle books and word search books are often fun for children as well. Think about buying two copies of the same paperback word search books and plan a timed contest to see who can find all of the words first. This works with siblings near the same age level, or as a game for a parent to play with the child.
7. Another fun activity idea is to construct a small booklet and draw (or have an older child draw) illustrations in the booklet. The younger child who is learning to read will be filling in the words (or dictating the words if he is not writing yet) and will have a self-published and authored book to treasure.
8. Be sure to ask questions and have a discussion period with the child about the books you are reading together. This will also give you confirmation that he comprehends what is being read. This will be especially important when it comes time for some of the standardized testing in school. Comprehension of the reading passages on such tests will be vital not only for school, but for making a lifetime habit of it. Starting early and strongly with reading comprehension is wise.
9. Choose any vocabulary words that the child may not know in a story and talk about them. Ask him to think of another way in which that word can be used. This will help the new reader to be curious about unrecognized words and not just skip over the meaning as long as he can figure out how to pronounce it.
10. Since spelling is also a part of reading, spell some words out when having normal conversations with a child. Things like “where is the d-o-g?” or “will you bring me a b-o-o-k?” turns into a game but is also building word recognition and spelling skills at the same time.