Most parents know that reading to your child for fifteen minutes every day is one of the most important activities you can do with your preschooler to help her learn to read and succeed in school. But what you may not know are some of the secrets teachers use during storytime to teach important early literacy skills to their kids. Well we've got a slew of sneaky teacher tips to share with you the next time you read with your child. Try a few of these simple ideas as you read books for the first time (or the hundredth time!) to help promote beginning literacy skills with your little bookworm.
Left to Right
This may sound simple, but running your fingers under the words as you read has many valuable lessons for young readers. The left to right and top to bottom orientation in the English language is not natural to young children. (You may notice this when she starts to write her name, often times right to left.) This is a simple skill that has to be learned and what an easy way to teach it! As an added bonus, she may also begin to recognize the words you are reading,and perhaps even start to recognize words used frequently in books.
Working With Words
If your child is inquisitive, she may naturally ask the meaning of words she doesn't recognize. Reading is a wonderful opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary as most picture books contain some words that your child may not know. After reading the book at least once all the way through (just for fun), begin to discuss some of the words you think your child may not know. As she begins to read, it will much easier to sound out a known word than one she has never heard or seen before (this is true for adults as well!).
Point Out Punctuation
Although it's not necessary for her to know what an explanation point, question mark or period is before she starts to read, being familiar with these common punctuation marks will help her feel more comfortable in the world of print. Make a game out of it by showing her (in an exaggerated way) what an exclamation point does to the sentence as you read it, or give her an opportunity to answer each question as you come to it. And for extra practice, you can even try reading the same sentence with different inflections based on the type of punctuation.
For a fun alternative to just reading a book, give your child a specific letter to hunt for on each page. Give her a magnifying glass and tell her she's a letter detective! Begin with the letters in her name to pique her interest in the activity. See how many upper case “B’s” are in the book, and then show her what the lower case “b” looks like. How many “B’s” and ”b’s” are in the book all together? This is a fun way to practice letter recognition and you can find most of the alphabet in almost every book!
Sight Word Search
If your child's a little older, you can begin to help her recognize some simple sight words found in most books. The ten most common used words in the English language (ranked by frequency) are: the, of, and, a, to, in, is, you, that, it. Give your little one a head start at reading by helping her recognize these words in print. Write one word on several mini self stick notes and have her stick one on each page where she finds the word. (For example, make ten notes that say the word “and” and let her search through the book for the word “and” to mark with a sticky note each time she finds it.) Read each sentence containing the word so she can hear and see the word in print. Don’t push this unless she thinks it's fun or it may have the opposite of the intended effect!
Make a Prediction
Before you read a new book together, look at the cover and ask your child what she thinks the story will be about. What gives her that idea? Read the title and ask her if she still thinks her prediction is correct or if she wants to change it. After you read the book, evaluate her prediction to see how close she was. She may also wish to make predictions about what will happen next as you read the book together. This is also great practice for basic storytelling, which is a skill she'll learn in the coming years as she writes more.
Check for Comprehension
After you have read a story for the first time, ask a few questions to see how much she remembers and understood. If you ask a question she can't answer, help her find the answer in the book, and then reread the page the answer is found on. Good reading comprehension skills will serve her well as she begins to read.
Creating a love of books and learning in your young child is more important than any literacy skill. Beware of focusing too much on the skill and forgetting to enjoy books together. Enjoy great books together often and when it feels right, and sneak in a little bit of extra learning as you snuggle up and read!