I think many times as educators working with our own kids, we can lose sight of the fact that other parents who are trained in different specialty areas might not know all the things we know about how to inspire reading in their little ones. SO, if you are an early childhood educator, this post series isn’t for you. If you’re a parent that has expertise in an area I know nothing about, this post is totally for you.
Have you ever wondered when you should start reading to your kiddos? Day 1. Seriously! Even your newborn loves to hear your voice. Never hurts to read to them when they are on the inside, either! I read to Becca daily when she was in the womb. And, by osmosis of me reading to Becca a bazillion times a day, Grayson got read to when he was in the womb, too. Even more than she did.
I love reading to my kids. I love reading out loud. I love the way a good poem or rhyming book just rolls off my tongue. (Our latest “favorite” book around here came from Becca’s Mamie – it’s called Room on the Broom, and if you haven’t read it, you REALLY should. It’s a GREAT read aloud book. – aff link, thank you!)
But maybe you don’t. Maybe you feel like you’re putting on a show and you kind of aren’t the best actor. Maybe you struggle over reading, and when you read a poem or rhyming book, it doesn’t have that magical lilt the author was going for. THAT IS OK!!! Really? Yes, really. Because the more you read out loud, the better you will get, for one thing. And for another thing, your child is not really the biggest critic in the room. You are. Your child just loves the fact that you are spending time with him/her. The book will take on a magic of its own simply because the two of you have opened it together.
You might not remember learning to read… we were all relatively young when it happened. A lot of water has gone under the bridge. And, if you’re not an educator, you might not remember all the steps that it took to get to that successful process. Hopefully this will help. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Try adding a few things at a time to your reading time. And if you don’t already have a reading time with your child, it’s never too late to start! Simply bookmark this post and come back later when you are ready to start adding another skill to your “teaching” time.
So, beyond the words and how they come out of your mouth, what can you do to start teaching your child book orientation and reading basics from early on? It’s never to early to start placing a book in your child’s hands or holding it in front of them correctly and saying simple things like “This is the front cover. Here is the top, and here is the bottom.” Did you know that when I taught kindergarten in public schools, that was a skill many of the kids did not have (even when I taught in a very affluent neighborhood)? Basic book orientation. Hand your three year old a book upside down and backwards, and he or she should be able to turn it over to the front cover and fix it to be right side up. But yet, many kindergarteners can’t do this. Because they haven’t been read to at home. They don’t know where a book begins. So work on that one. It’s a skill they’re gonna need, and they won’t know it if they aren’t shown. Daily. Don’t expect them to get it the first time.
Then, once your child gets that skill, you can talk about the parts of the book some more. More than just top and bottom, you can talk about the front cover, the back cover, and the spine. For your older kiddos (or kiddos who have really strong book knowledge), you can start talking about the title page, find the author/illustrator name/s. And ultimately, hand a book to your child – upside down and backwards – and ask “where do I start reading.” The goal here would be for your child to turn the book over, orient it correctly, and then open to the first page of the story and point to the first word. You aren’t going to get here without some daily instruction. So, each time that you sit down to read, take just a second and say, “ok, let’s see. This is the front cover. The title is ____. (and point to it!) The author wrote the words and his/her name is _____. (and point to the name) The illustrator drew the pictures and her/his name is ______. (and point to the name). Here’s the title page. It has the same information. (if applicable – here’s the dedication page. The author wrote this book especially for ___. and read the dedication). Ok! Here’s where the story starts! (And point to the first word).
As you read to your child, use your finger to track the words. I know this painstaking. Sometimes I don’t do it. But now, when I don’t, Becca usually takes my hand and makes me point to the words. What’s the point of this? It teaches your child several skills. They’ll learn the most basic principles of “left to right” tracking on the page. They’ll also learn that we start reading at the top – you don’t just randomly select a word and start reading in the middle. They’ll also learn “left to right” page tracking – we always start on the left-most words. If those happen to be on a page that is on the right side of the book, that’s ok – but usually they are on the left page. Remember that we learn by doing, but we also learn by watching. And your children are looking to you for direction on what to do. Pointing to the words might be frustrating, but it helps. A lot.
Not only does it teach tracking, it will also ultimately begin to teach your child sight words, which my post next Friday will discuss. I hope you’ll come back and check it out.