SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD'S READING DEVELOPMENT
For the past several months, my 5-and-a-half-year-old grandson and I have been enrolled in a Beginning Reading Program. The classes are taught by instructors from the U of MN Institute of Reading Development. I thought it would be interesting to see how this program approaches reading development for 4- and 5-year-olds.
The biggest message to the adults is "Read aloud to your children regularly." This is the most important thing we can do to help our child develop a love of reading and learn to read more easily. Reading aloud builds:
- enthusiasm for books
- stamina for listening
- the desire to read independently
And if a child connects reading with being together with you, it becomes a powerful way to communicate your love for each other.
In the classes we focus on a variety of wonderful children's books - some of which are classics and others I had never seen. What I find to be particularly helpful is the ways in which the instructors expand the experiences with simple techniques. I thought I would share some of those with you.
The books we read are all heavily illustrated picture books. It makes sense that pictures pull your child into the story, increase comprehension, and can help children see the humor when a book is funny. Even though your child cannot read the words in these books yet, he can enjoy the pictures and the feeling of reading by himself. Then, as an independent activity after you have finished your reading time together, your child can page through the book which allows him to do for himself what you were doing for him, which was giving
him the pleasure of the reading experience.
Many times, after we read a book, the instructor asks the children to identify their favorite part of the story, or sometimes their favorite picture in the story. That causes us to thumb through the book again and think about what had happened and relook at the illustrations. On some pages we spend extra time and inevitably we see so much more detail in the drawings than we had seen during the first reading.
It is clear to me that while reading the books our real objective is to enjoy the illustrations, the plots and the characters. During another portion of the class we work on alphabet skills, phonics, rhyming and some sight words. Those are key beginning reading skills. But to enjoy the literature for its own sake is the most important goal of our time together.
Sometimes we do an activity that connects to the story we read. One week after we had read
a story about houses, each child drew a picture of what she would like to do during each month of the year at her house. We used one piece of paper for each month. The child drew a picture and described what he/she had drawn. The adult wrote those words on the page. By the end the child had become both author and illustrator of a 12-page book! It was fun to see how much the children understood about seasons, family traditions, etc.
We also bring some simple games into the mix.
"I Spy with My Little Eye" is fun to play looking at an illustrated page and saying, "...something that begins with the letter P - or something that rhymes with hat." Then we switch roles and let the child be the leader. This game can be done with any book you read, not just alphabet or rhyming books.
After reading Curious George Rides a Bike we were encouraged to make a paper boat at home, just like George did. The instructions are right in the book so it was a fun and simple project. We put ours in the bathtub and it actually did float for a long time until it got very soggy. But then the boat became a science experiment! We let it dry overnight and it was almost sailable again by morning!
So, enjoy your reading aloud time with your child. Think of ways to expand the experience. Reading together is the most important thing you can do for your child's future success as a reader!