Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reading - The Greatest Gift of All

Sammy "reading" before age tw
This is a photo is of my grandson - already reading some words at the age of two! I attribute this to:
  • older brother's example 
  • parents who read to him
  • watching children's educational television shows
  • access to computer games
  • exposure to many books that are of interest
  • parents who are happily married and devoted to their family
  • generous praise for his accomplishments 

Commonly Asked Questions by Parents:
When do I start reading to my child? It is never too early to read to a child. Even small babies find pleasure in language. They enjoy being sung and read to, and they like it when you tell them stores and rhymes.They enjoy sitting on your lap sharing the bonding experience.

Is my child really reading or just memorizing? Young children often talk their way through a book using the pictures to guide them. They might use their own words or remember the story by heart. This is not "cheating" but part of beginning to read. As children get older, the pictures continue to help them make good guesses about words they don't know. Keep encouraging them until they really figure out phonics (sounds of letters), blending the sounds, and recognition of sight words.

How many books a day should I read to my child? I recommend three books a day: one that rhymes, one of their choice (even if you have read it numerous times), and a beginner's reading book with just a few words on each page. But the main point is that they are interested in books so expose them to a variety such as traditional and modern stories, rhymes, poetry, songs, and information books. Children love science books because they relate to their world. If you, or your child, are too tired or stressed, do not make it a power struggle to have reading time. It needs to be enjoyable.

Should I buy a phonics or reading program? It is not necessary. Many of us older readers learned without one. The key is the 3 Rs: repetition, rhythm and rhyme. You can borrow library books, purchase books that teach phonics, or make your own. There are numerous alphabet sheets available for free on the Internet. I have some sites listed on my blog or just Google "free alphabet or phonics worksheets." There are even free beginning reading books (see my link on right). It is best to have your child learn the lower case letters first because most print is in lower case. I prefer phonics programs that teach the most frequently used letters first, rather than teaching from A through Z, because words can be learned more quickly. For example, teach the letter S making an sssssss sound like a snake. Teach the letter m by eating an M&M and making the mmmm sound. Teach the word Sam. Read Dr. Seuss' book Green Eggs and Ham.

How can I help my child learn to read?
Use animated facial expressions and voice when you read to them. Show them that you have a love of reading. Let them see you reading books, magazines, shopping lists, and signs. We are surrounded by words in our environment. Point to signs and make it a game. Talking about words also helps children learn to read. The first word they may recognize is their name, stop from a stop sign, or a sign in front of a store that you frequent. The first word my nephew read at age three was zoo from an advertisement poster. Children have told me they've gone to the W store which one assumes is Walmart. Praise lavishly whenever a child recognizes a letter or word. Help them learn the sound the letter makes.

Does my child understand what he or she is reading?
Comprehension is important. Ask questions, listen, and answer their numerous questions. It shows they are interested and want to find out more. Talking about books is one of the best ways for children to become involved in stories and to feel like readers. You can help them talk about a book by saying things like:
  • I wonder what happened?
  • Can you guess what is going to happen next?
  • Why do you like this book so much?
  • What is your favorite part of the book?
Games you can play to help teach reading:
  • When a child recognizes particular words or letters, help them find places where these recur. For example, say, "Let's find another place where it says "Exit" or "the letter E."
  • You can play letter games together by making a collection of words that have the same beginning sound or that rhyme.
  • Help your child make their own signs for pet habitats, book shelves, a collection of anything, their toy box or whatever interests them. This gives meaning to the written word.
  • Play the "knock-knock" card game. Put a few words on index cards or paper. Lay them face down and mix. Say "knock-knock" as child knocks on a card. The child turns it over. If they recognize the word, ask them to put it in a sentence or help them use it. Then it is your turn. If you do not know the word, turn it over and mix up the cards again. Next person's turn. Or you can put the same letter or word on two cards, making several sets, and have the child match the letters or words. There are lists of Dolch sight words on the Internet which lists the most common words used in our language (see my link on right). Learning sight words increases comprehension because one can read faster.

The gift of reading continues throughout a lifetime. Something about everything can be learned from reading. It is inspiring to know of people who were denied an education, but given the opportunity they learned to read in their senior years. The desire to read is phenomenal and is not quenched until achieved.

Parents, siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, babysitters and teachers can be a part of wrapping a huge beautiful gift that when opened will unleash a lifetime of learning.

For a glimpse into Kindergarten see my book. Would you like inexpensive ideas, activities, and games to teach your child through play? Mommy with Selective Memory and I can help save your sanity, one project at a time, with The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn. Both are bestsellers and are also available on Barnes & Noble and Kobo. The ebooks are only $3.99.

A book shut tightly is but a piece of paper.~ Japanese proverb


  1. Great post! Very helpful hints and tips for parents here, thanks! And thank you so much for linking it up this week. Hope to see more of your ideas!

    1. Anna - Thank you so much for visiting. Love your blog!

  2. Great post. Thanks


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