As a 1st Grade Teacher, I'm up to my ears in teaching kids to read. And it is very clear to me that THE single most important factor in my students' success in reading is whether or not that have a strong foundation for reading AT HOME. That's right... as much as teachers are doing all that they can to teach reading skills, phonics, word-chunking, rhyming, blending, sounding out, etc. the most important factor for success in my opinion is whether children are being Read, Talked to and Sang to (and with) at home. In fact, 80% of a child's brain develops before the age of three! So if a student comes to school without that solid background in reading, talking and singing, they will have a lot of catching up to do. I see this firsthand on a daily basis.
The good news is that you as a parent can do SO much at home to prepare your child with a solid foundation for developing reading skills and it is easy AND fun! Here are four easy ways that you can start your child on the path for reading success...
1) Read to them. Pick up books at thrift stores, book fairs, borrow book from the library for free... anywhere. Just get your hands on some good books, open them up and read. Daily! We read every single day in our home, especially at bedtime. When my little guys were younger and way too active to hold still for a whole story, I would read to them while they were in the bathtub. Listening to stories being read aloud is key to developing reading skills, as it teaches kids concepts of print. Even at a very young age long before they can actually read themselves, kids who are read to will know which way to hold the book, which way the words are read, how to use the pictures for context clues to "tell the story" themselves and more. Find a cozy corner, fill it with pillows and a basket of books, and your little ones will love it.
2) Talk to them. I remember hearing this when I was first pregnant, and honestly, I felt so silly talking to my baby while we were alone in our house. But I talked to my babies about everything as we went through our days. When we went grocery shopping I would talk about what was on our list that day, and what we were going to have for dinner. When we went on walks in the stroller, I talked to our babies about the trees, birds, cars, anything I could think of. Isn't it amazing when your little ones start talking and they sound like you?! My little guys use the same expressions that I do and I love it. It's proof that they really have been listening all along!
3) Sing to them. We are constantly making up silly songs here- changing the words to familiar tunes, practicing our rhyming, and laughing, laughing, laughing. Our youngest is three years old and I have hearing him get involved with the songs his older brothers make up. It stretches their imagination to come up with rhyming words and they have so much fun. If your little one isn't old enough to make up their own songs, just sing any kid-friendly song to them. I promise, they are listening (so make sure it's kid-friendly!) Turn up the music, sing and dance with your kids!
4) Let them use their imagination. There are SO many ways for kids to use their imagination and have fun. I let them keep all of their Halloween costumes and they are always dressing up and playing with each other.
5) Let them be little. Childhood goes by so quickly. I am trying to soak up every minute with my boys while they're young. But I definitely don't want to waste away their childhood by drilling them with flashcards. I make it a point to interact with them a lot every day, and also to let them loose and be silly kids!
Talk, Read, Sing is a program through First 5 California that encourages parents to get involved with our children during the First 5 years of their life. Interacting through Talking, Reading, and Singing is so, so important to their development. Honestly, it's my favorite way of spending my days! If you need more ideas on how, visit the First 5 California website. It doesn't have to be elaborate, expensive or ridiculously time-consuming. Weaving talking, reading, and singing into your daily lives with your little ones will ensure them a positive, successful path towards becoming lifelong readers!