- There’s no need to rush.Reading prep can start as early as the toddler years, but it must remain pressure free. Within the early years, from kindergarten and below, I believe most learning should be hands on and engaging. The focus being on letter sounds and recognition. Some children naturally take to learning to read by kindergarten, and some take a few years longer. Either way, rushing or putting too much pressure on a child will only slow the process of learning. These days I’m hearing more and more about moms feeling the pressure to teach preschoolers using a full curriculum, which is not necessary. Take your time, take a deep breath and release yourself from any preconceived timeline you may have. Remember they will eventually learn to read. It will happen as long as you are consistent.
- Reading should not be miserable. If reading time looks like sounding out letter after letter, as you both count the remaining unread pages with dread, it’s time to mix things up. I suggest reading 1-2 short pages (each containing a few sentences) and stopping there. It’s better to repeat the two pages until the child is reading with fluency. This way the experience is enjoyable for both child and teacher—and most of all, the child feels confident after mastering these pages. This confidence will motivate the child to move forward with expectation instead of dread. Also, in the early years, children learn so much more through play and natural life experiences. It’s super important to make a positive association with reading. This happens when we make learning fun by focusing on hands on activities.
Here are some of my favorite hands on activities–
- Flash cards
- Matching games (object to beginning and ending letter)
- Letter puzzles
- Reading picture books to them regularly
- Salt/sand letter drawing
- Wooden letters
- Playdough letter making
- Shaving cream letter fun
- Rainbow writing
- CVC activities
Also, coming up with fun chants to help them remember the role of letters is also super helpful. One of my personal favorites is “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking”. Helping them see the letters as characters/people who say their name or their sound depending on who they’re around helps them visualize and remember rules.
- Build up their confidence. Start small, start simple, start easy. It’s so important for a child to feel like they’re doing well. The more they feel like they’re winning, the more they will believe that they can go farther. Starting out with flash cards and simple puzzles, the pressure is off. Then, by beginning with lower level readers that offer a series of books, advancing in challenge with each consecutive book, their confidence grows. I know my son loves to look at the back of his reader to see what book he is on and what book he gets to move to next. And when he finishes the entire set of readers, he can’t wait to tell his daddy and sister that he’s moving on to harder books.
- Consistency is key. Honestly, in the classroom, when teaching kindergartners to read, it always came down to being consistent and reading every day. Not reading an entire reader, but breaking it down into a few pages a day. This way you can take your time breaking down each word and not moving on until their reading with ease. This, along with reviewing letter sounds and blends daily is ideal. Because again, repetition works.
- Make a connection. My son mentions often that he wants to be a pastor like his daddy one day. When he does, we of course talk about how that needs to be a calling from the Lord, but I also like to mention how if he does want to become a pastor he must be able to teach people God’s word. To do that he must be able to read the Bible. Making that connection for him has helped him see the goal and he now wants to improve so that he can read his Bible on his own. Of course, there is also the fact that reading is required for so much more– reading street signs, order food at restaurants, instruction manuals and so on. I like pointing those things out too. But making the connection to something meaningful can really help motivate them to want to engage in learning.
Some of my favorite resources, all linked–
- ABC See, Hear, Do
- Bob books
- Teach Your Child To Learn in 100 Lessons
- Dash into Learning
- Letter Stamps
- Letter tiles
- CVC Word Builders
- Wooden letters
Photographs: Flora + Fig Photography