We know it probably feels like summer break just started, but for children who will be starting kindergarten in September (just two short months way), there is a lot that parents can do to start getting them ready for school. And the most important thing of all is (can you guess what we are going to say?): READ TO THEM!
Researchers suggest that it is best to read to your child once a day. But if you can’t manage that (and many families have very busy schedules) try for at least every other day. Also, make sure your child has printed materials around him every day. These can be books, magazines or newspapers. The number of books children had in their homes predicted how well they did in school across 42 different countries. The more books, the better! We know that families don’t necessarily have unlimited money to spend on those expensive, hard cover books that bookstores sell. But, luckily, most resale stores like Goodwill and St. Vincent De Paul have children’s books for less than a dollar a piece. Also, the library is always a great source for books and a good way to let your children see a variety of printed materials.
Once you have the books, you can teach your child so many different things just by reading to her! Here is a small list of things that you can do to help your child get the most out of reading:
- Teach basic facts about reading – Some of the most important facts that children need to know about reading are things like how to hold a book so you can read it from front to back, that you read the text and not the pictures, and where to start reading a sentence. Talk about all of these things while you are getting to read and while you are reading.
- Teach letter skills -Point out different letters as you read and tell your child their names. Then make the sound of the letter. (Alphabet books are great for this but any book with printed text will do.) Ask your child to tell you the names and sounds of letters as well. If he gets it wrong you can say “Good job trying! This letter is…”
- Teach number skills – Count objects in pictures. For example, if there is a picture of fish in a pond, count the number of fish. Or apples on a tree. Or anything where there are multiple objects. You can even count the number of different things in pictures (and get bonus points because now you are teaching your child about “same” and “different”).
- Teach sitting still and being quiet – We have talked in past posts about how it important it is for children to be used to rules and routines when they start school. Reading time can be a great way to teach some of those important skills. Ask your child to sit quietly with a calm body while you read. If she has a question or comment, she can lay her hand on your arm (or some other signal like raising her hand in a classroom) to let you know and then wait until you finish what you are reading. You can make a game of it and see how many pages you can read without your child being very wiggly or interrupting.
- Teach listening skills – To help your child focus on the story, ask him questions about what is happening or what he thinks will happen next. At the end of a story ask him to tell you what the story was about and what happened. This will help your child to pay attention to the details and practice recounting important pieces of what he has heard.
These are just some of the ways that you can read with your child and teach her important skills to be ready for school. Remember that if you are going to be teaching new skills, it is best to choose a time to read when your child is not tired or upset about something. Also, if you don’t like to read or don’t read well yourself, you can still do all of the things listed. You don’t have to read word for word. Just talking about the pictures and counting or asking your child to tell you about details will be helpful. Above all, enjoy taking some time out and reading with your child!
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