Have you ever watched a young child interact with a book? Children understand from a very young age that books are meaningful. Children long to fully know and understand the words written inside their favorite books. It's exciting when a child begins to take strides towards becoming a reader. However, it is so important that a pre-reader's first attempts at reading are positive. We want our children to approach the transition from pre-reading to reading with enthusiasm and confidence, knowing they ARE a reader.
These activities and ideas will help you build your child's confidence so that he/she will approach learning to read with joy, and without fear or anxiety. The first time your child is handed a decodable reader, he needs to believe deep down in his bones that he CAN read it! To facilitate building your little pre-reader's confidence, I want to give you a list of ideas to help him on the beginning of his reading journey. (And oh what an exciting journey it is!!)
Select a picture book, and invite your child to read it to you. Use phrases like, "Tell me the story," or "Tell me what you see." Encourage your child to use the illustrations to help him tell the story. This activity can help your child understand that illustrations have meaning. Knowing how to use illustrations for contextual cues will be an important strategy for your child, as he/she becomes an emergent reader.
If your child becomes frustrated and says, "I don't know how to read," provide lots of encouragement (and don't agree with your child!) Model for your child how to "read" using the pictures as a guide. Remember that this activity is not about accuracy or decoding. This is a pre-reading activity designed to build confidence. Don't be surprised if you discover you have a budding storyteller on your hands. Their version just might be better than the words on the page!
Environmental Print Cards
By far, the most popular center in my kindergarten classroom was my stack of environmental print cards. Environmental print is literally print that is seen in one's environment.
To create a set of cards, start by locating images of logos that your child is familiar with. I like to choose print from our favorite food products, brands, and stores. Print out the images, and glue them onto cardstock or construction paper.
These cards help your child feel successful as a reader. Children become so excited when they realize just how many words they can already recognize and read. When your children see and can read "Target" or "Walt Disney," they begin to see themselves as a reader. They become confident and recognize that they have the ability to read. (It is SO much fun to watch them shout out, "Hey! That says Diet Coke!" and see just how pleased they are!)
Because this is a confidence-building activity, rather than one geared towards accuracy, be slow to correct your child. If your child sees a print card for your favorite brand of chips and tells you that it says "chips" instead of the brand name, accept his answer. Your child is beginning to make connections and is recognizing that letters and words represent concepts.
You may discover that this activity helps your child become more aware of print. As you drive, shop, or peruse your pantry, don't be surprised if your child begins to notice signs or packaging, or tell you what things say. This is an exciting indication that your child is becoming a reader!
Sending your child on a letter hunt is another way to ramp up his natural curiosity about print while reinforcing that letters form words to create meaning. Before you head out to the grocery store or simply on your next drive, print out a copy of the alphabet for your child. Encourage him to look for each of the letters, and cross them out as he finds them. Point out letters on license plates, signs, storefronts, etc. If you don't have a print-out, simply ask your child to look for letters. "Do you see any letters?" "Can you see any words down this aisle?"
As your child begins to become more aware of letters and words, he/she may start to ask questions. Don't be surprised if you are constantly asked "What letter is that?" and "What does that letter say?" Slowly, your child will begin to see patterns and put pieces of the reading puzzle together.
Learning to read is a process. Your child is on his or her way to becoming a reader from the very first time you read a story aloud. Children don't become readers overnight. It's a gradual but exciting process. These (and other!) pre-reading activities will help your child on his or her way. Happy pre-reading!