Music and Motivation
Creative Parents' Credo
Profiles in Creativity
Inspiration For Artists
My Childhood and Theirs
Notes from the Library
Who Are Creative Parents
GETTING READY TO READ
Suggestions for Helping Your Child Get Started....
by Istar Schwager, Ph.D.
I read my story to you?” five-year-old Benjie asked. He stood up
from the table where he’d been working for several minutes with
markers and crayons. In has hand, he held sheets of construction paper
folded into a “book.” Benjie climbed onto his mother’s
lap and intently “read” her the story he’d written about
how his dog was lost and then found in the: neighbor’s yard. On
the pages of his book, he had drawn pictures of the dog, himself and several
renditions of the letter D.
When Benjie finished,
his mother gave him a big hug. Then she asked him why the dog had gone
to the neighbor’s yard. Benjie’s face lit up. He scrambled
off her lap and added a page with a picture of the dog chasing a ball.
Benjie to express himself on paper, listening to him read his story, and
asking supportive, thought-provoking questions, Benjie’s mom conveyed
to him the attitude that reading is interesting, fun, and relevant.
According to many
educators, this encouragement is the greatest contribution parents can
make to their children’s interest in, and enjoyment of reading.
“Children who are read to have a much easier time learning
WAYS TO MAKE READING FUN
Children are most
likely to see something as enjoyable when it involves their active participation
and draws upon their experience. How can parents make reading an active
experience? By pointing out how written words are used in the environment,
and by encouraging their children to express themselves verbally and in
reading skills at different rates, but the love of sounds, words, and
communication can start in infancy. Below, we suggest a number of ways
in which parents can help their children learn to love reading. These
ideas are based on the research of reading specialists and our years of
experience developing materials for children. They set the stage so your
children will learn to read joyfully when they are ready.
Read aloud. We all know that reading
aloud is important for children, but perhaps not everyone is aware of
how important it can be. Studies suggest that chidren who are read to
have a much easier time learning to read.
It’s important to make reading together an experience that is not
restricted to any one time. Bedtime stories are great, but there’s
a lot to be gained from reading together at other times, too.
While bedtime stories
are (ideally) followed by quiet and shut-eye, books read at other times
can be followed by more lively conversations. Ask your child who her favorite
character was, or what she things happened after the story ended. Point
out the names of the author and illustrator to give your children a sense
that stories are created by people like themselves. Encourage your children
to participate in reading the book – whether by pointing to particular
pictures or filling in words that have become familiar after the umpteenth
best to read together during relaxed moments, but such moments can be
few and far between in a household with young kids. So take advantage
of the few quiet times that occur naturally – even if only for a
few moments, during the day.
1. Read to your children while you’re
in the kitchen waiting for the spaghetti water to boil.
2. Take a book to the doctor’s
office to read with your child in the waiting room. and sentences.
3. Tuck a book
in your purse to read together during other waits: at the shoe store,
at the train station, the airport, or anywhere else where you end up in
And if your quiet
time is interrupted, it need not mean the end of your reading. Have your
child make a bookmark to use when a story is interrupted by a phone call
or a sibling’s cry.
“The love of sounds, words and communication can start in
Ask Specific Questions. It is a
good idea to ask your child about things he has done and seen, and to
have him retell his experiences. While this may not seem directly related
to reading, the process of organizing ideas and information that occurs
when you converse is related.
however that your questions be specific. If you ask “What happened
at school today?” it may be hard for a young child to remember and
formulate the answer. Questions like “Whom did you sit next to at
lunch” “Which story did the teacher read? And “Who fed
the rabbit” will probably get more detailed answers.
Be sure to ask
for opinions. “What did you think of that store?” or “Do
the twins in your class like to play together? Why?” Asking these
questions gives a child practice thinking in terms of who, what, when,
and why – mainstays in the written world. And asking what happened
next helps exercise sequencing skills necessary to follow a story.
Listen. Be sure to give your child
time to complete her thoughts and sentences. Young children may ramble,
but no matter how convoluted, the point they’re making is important
to them. It requires patience, but you’ll learn more by paying attention—and
your child will know and appreciate it.
Write with your child. Thank-you
notes, birthday cards, and letters to Grandma are all opportunities for
self-expression. Whether it’s writing her name or even a first letter,
being on the creative side of reading helps children understand the writing-reading
Feeling proud of
herself as an author, thinking through what to say and how to say it,
and putting the marks on paper all contribute to an appreciation of reading.
Encourage your child to draw. For
children, drawing is a form of storytelling. Encourage your children to
use different media – paint, crayons, markers and to tell you about
their pictures. Remember, though that saying “What is it?”
can put a child on the spot and make him think that he has to identify
all the lines and shapes.
The more open-ended
“Do you want to tell me about your story?” gives him more
leeway to describe, fabricate, elaborate and imagine.
Use your local library. In most
places, children can get library cards as soon as they can write their
names somewhat legibly. Librarians are happy to recommend age-appropriate
books on topics of interest. Libraries frequently have story-hours for
young children and other activities for older ones. And why not take out
a book at the same time and set a good example?
Show that you value reading, too.
While it may be hard to find quiet time to read while your child is awake,
demonstrating that you like to read helps convey the message that reading
is an enjoyable thing to do. Even grown-ups do it! Look at your book while
your child is looking at hers.
Play word games. Playing with words
is a source of great enjoyment for young children. It’s also part
of how they learn to read. Making up a sentence in which many of the words
begin with the same letter (perhaps the first letter in the child’s
name) can be a lot of fun for him. “Benjie saw the beetle climb
on the banana so he put the banana on the boa” may not sound hilarious
to you, but your child will find it, or phrases like it, hysterically
There are also
many children’s songs that play with sound changes and variations.
A good example is the singer Raft i tune “Willoughby, Wallaby, Woo’
in which the letter W is substituted for the first letter in people’s
Play with letter shapes. Concrete
letters, whether in the form of blocks or magnets, give children a chance
to become familiar with letter shapes in a playful situation. A child
building a tower of letter blocks may put all the Es on the roof or may
use the letters from her name to make a tower. Magnetic letters, which
stick to the refrigerator, are great to use while you’re in the
kitchen. The child can make up “nonsense” words that you sound
out, can substitute H for C in cat and create a whole new word.
Read everything. When with your
child, read labels. Read signs. Read clouds. Point out the letter made
when your child takes a bite of a piece of bread.
Ask your child
to find all the words that begin with the letter M when you’re taking
a walk together. Or go through the alphabet together: Find objects beginning
with A. then B, down to Z. (It’s a good way to keep moving on a
walk, but one warning: Hardly anything begins with Q).
Point out reading
materials wherever you find them: Newspapers. signs, menus, record album
covers. Children get a sense of how useful reading is by seeing you learn
from different sources. Reading, a big part of an adult’s environment,
can be a meaningful part of a child’s world, too—if it’s
seen as an activity connected to the things children value and care about.
The Object Is to Have Fun
above are intended to be fun and engaging for your child, but they are
only guidelines. Adapt them to suit your child’s interests and skills.
Try them out. See which activities your child responds to.
By sharing these
activities with your children, you will be helping them see reading as
an integral part of their lives. In this way, you will raise a child who
knows how to read and likes to read.
Sesame Workshop (New York, New York) All Rights Reserved.
How is your child learning
to read? -- let us know.
Back to Top