One of my favorite educational quotes is- “Learning to read is rocket science.” This was said by the great education researcher Louisa Moats. 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. You can 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 activities like rhyme and phonemic awareness games. (If phonemic awareness is a new term to you, read this blog). Start by playing games 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. Or even better, get a personalized book from MyLibook. Seeing their own name in a book is exciting and will motivate them to read for sure.
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! You’re their first teacher, make it meaningful.
Kristie Shelley is a mom, author, and founder of The Mom Advantage, a space where moms can learn how to support their littles through the process of learning to read. Kristie is a former teacher, educational consultant, and curriculum developer. Her 20 years in education and experience guiding her own daughter through learning to read inspired her to want to help moms and children everywhere navigate this often mysterious process. She believes learning to read can be a joyous event if you lay a solid pre-reading foundation.
Kristie also recently launched a book that helps build alphabetic knowledge. It’s called Sing to ABC- an awesome alphabet game. It reads as a fun, interactive game that your little one will ask to read again and again. Check it out!’