How can you support your child as a reader in a meaningful way?
I feel the same way about play as I do about learning to read. I believe that if you are respectful of your child’s need to play and explore at a developmentally appropriate level, you are already WAY ahead of the game when it comes to reading readiness.
First, know that reading and writing readiness is DEVELOPMENTAL. It is different for every child. Like many of you, I need to remind myself this very often. It is so hard not to compare your child to siblings and peers. I’m speaking from my own direct experience. I struggle with this almost daily.
Here are some simple, easy to follow ways that you can support your child in his or her journey to becoming a confident reader and writer:
Having a print-rich environment is always a good idea. Lots of books,magazines, signs, and opportunities to see print as meaningful. I bet if you look around your home, you already have this. See? Told you that you are already ahead of the game!
Show your child that his or her words matter. This means writing down what they say, listening carefully when they are telling you a story, or when they want to sing you a song. For little babies, this includes sounds and verbalizations.
Sing! Lots of us sing to our little babies, but then we begin to feel silly as they get older. Don’t stop singing! Make up funny songs, silly words, or even sing what you are about to do. All of this word play is tremendously helpful in growing our children up to be confident learners.
Show your child that his or her mark making, scribbling, invented spelling matters. Do this by turning your entire attention to their work. Listen and look. Do not put your own spin on it, just listen and nod encouragingly. Instead of asking what they drew, just notice details aloud and then see what THEY say about their work. Listen carefully.
Show your child that YOU read and write every day. Think out loud when you are writing. Model your thinking. Get in the habit of doing this (it feels super weird at first but is a real game changer with all kinds of learning with children).
Write and draw what they say. When they are telling you a long story, made up or true, grab a pencil and let them watch you write it all down. They can revisit it later. Maybe they will even illustrate it. Don’t make it hard though, or you’ll never do it. Any old scrap of paper will do.
Give your child access to books and open ended art materials. This can be as simple as crayons and blank paper.
Label items that your children already know. When Nate was little, I made labels with letters or words on familiar items like the milk pitcher and his bed. He would “read” the words to these very meaningful objects and see himself as a competent and capable learner. (Hmmm, maybe I should do this for Sloane.)
Place value on time spent with books and stories.Spend time reading separately but together. Sometimes we all sit and read together, but silently, each in our own books. Yes, small children can do this. It takes practice and modeling.
Keep note pads and paper everywhere. Write and draw your child notes. Even when they are small. I like to leave a note under their pillow, or in the bathroom. It’s okay if they cant read yet! It is a fun surprise to discover and you can read it to them. Show your children that print and marks are important and necessary.
Most importantly, DO follow your child’s lead. If he’s not ready, he’s not ready. Don’t forget…Kindergarten now is what first and second grade was in years past.
Develop a love of learning in general and all will be well. Always encourage risk taking, question asking and mistake making.
Of course, there are apps and reading programs that will teach your child to memorize words and letters from a very young age, but they lack relevance. In order for your child to learn the love of reading and writing that will last a lifetime they need meaningful, rich connections to the work they are doing. This happens over time. This happens with intention. This happens when we value our child’s individual development and life experience.
Over the next few weeks, you might see me working with Sloane on her literacy journey. She is “there”. She is ready. I know this because I see her thinking constantly about sounds and letters. I see her making sense of text in context. She’s sounding out street signs, menu words, etc. She’s beginning to label her own pictures and she’s spending lots of time reading to her dolls and stuffed animals.
Sloane is six. Nate was developmetally ready when he was four. Ruby was probably five and a half. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Look around at your friends. Do you know how old they were when they said their first works? When the took first steps or mastered the potty? Nope. Because it doesn’t matter in the long run. So try, as hard as I know that it is, not to RUSH reading and writing. Enjoy the journey. And when you child wants to read to YOU at bedtime? Grab a big glass of wine… it takes A LOT of patience and time ;)
I hope you found this post helpful. If you want to hear more from me, please be sure to subscribe to my blog and join the conversation over on Instagram.