One of my favorite educational quotes is- “Learning to read is rocket science.” This was said by brain researcher Dr. Sally Shatwitz. In other words, it takes a lot of carefully crafted, complicated steps to all line up in order to learn to read. Luckily, most little ones don’t even notice these complications. And you are going to be the master of distraction and make this process exciting by simply focusing on three things.
I don’t want this to sound intimidating. Although learning to read has many complex steps, you can help make it a smoother process. One of the easiest ways to help the process along is to build a solid pre-reading foundation before they enter kindergarten. To build this foundation, read a ton to them and then focus on these three skill groups:
Alphabetic Knowledge. This is knowing the names, shapes, and sounds of each letter. Before they can read, they need to be masters of the squiggly lines we call letters. Start with the letters in their name and then build from there. Again, they must know the name, shape, and basic sound of each letter. (*Basic means don’t worry about all of the other sounds letters make, like sometimes ‘s’ says /z/...his/hiz. This will come later.)
Phonological Awareness. Don’t let the technical phrase overwhelm you, embrace it! Learn about its value in reading. This is where you’re going to tune your little one’s ears to sound through rhyme and phonemic awareness games. (If phonemic awareness is a new term to you, read this blog). Start by playing games on my site like ‘I Spy a Rhyme’ and ‘Tugboat Speedboat’.
Motivation. Yep. It’s just as important, maybe even more important than #1 and #2. Maybe it’s not exactly a skill, but it can be encouraged. Your little one has to be interested in books in order to have that internal drive to want to read them. My tips for this- Find topics they’re into and buy books about the topics; pick up your own book to read for pleasure in front of them, showing them it’s something to enjoy; and find repetitive text they can memorize and ‘read’ to you, like Brown Bear Brown Bear.
As you can see it goes beyond just books. But I promise, if you build these skills now you will help your little one be reading ready!