Whilst families are at home it’s important to make sure our 4 to 7 year olds are being immersed in language. This is the age where they are learning to read and it’s a great time to develop their skills as lifelong readers. Language is a meaning making process for our young ones and speaking , reading , writing and listening are all related and together help with learning to read. Your teachers will have plenty of curriculum activities for your child to follow, but there are so many enjoyable activities you can do at home to enhance this magical experience.
When I taught Prep, Year One and Year Two, one of my greatest joys was seeing that ‘aha’ moment when everything clicked into place and children realised they really were beginning to read. Children come from all different places and are at all different stages, so there is no point comparing your child to anyone else. Some children progress steadily and catch or surpass peers who seemingly steamed ahead early on in their schooling. We are all so different in our rates of learning.
If you are free to do so, try and read to your child at bedtime and read to them throughout the day. Bedtime reading is essential to calm children down after a busy day, create a bedtime routine and nurture those lifelong bonds with your child. Sometimes you will have to read their favourite story again and again and ….. again. Know that repetition helps with learning to read as they hear the rhythm, pick out familiar words and use pictures as visual clues. Sometimes you can ask questions like, “ What do you think is going to happen next? “ or “ Why did he do that ? “ If your children are tired they can just listen to the soothing sounds of your voice.
Nursery Rhymes, repetitive stories and rhyming stories are important as they really emphasise the rhythm of language. Children love funny and silly stories, action stories, but also stories that move them, offer a message of kindness, teach them about our world, or share the views of others and diversity. You can have them predict words here too.
The Cat in the Hat is one example. Look at the cover. Ask , “ What do you think the story is about? Can you point to the the word cat and hat? How are they the same? What else rhymes with cat and hat?”
You can ask the child to predict the text. “ The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house All that cold, cold, wet…….” Pause so your child can supply the correct word. The Cat in the Hat does seem like an appropriate book to read in our current situation.
You can make up your own stories together and create your own reading books. Children really love making and illustrating their own tiny books or big books that you can read together. Libraries have plenty of digital resources and the internet is alive with resources that play to your child’s special interests. It might be insects, dinosaurs, horses, dogs, football, fairies or machines. By finding their special interests you ensure they are engaged with their own learning.
You may have to use some of my more old fashioned ideas. Remember back in the day when we used to cut and label magazine or newspaper pictures for each letter of the alphabet and paste them into a scrapbook. It’s a great resource that they can flick through themselves and practise their letters and words. You may remember doing this yourself. We didn’t have photocopiers when I started teaching, so we could use a stencil very occasionally to run off sheets or had to be creative and find other materials and other means of learning.
Read a story, then ask your child to copy a sentence before drawing a picture. Trace over a poem and have them read it back to you. Scramble a sentence so that they can put it back in order like a puzzle and blue tac labels to some everyday objects. Write captions in sidewalk chalk, look for signs and labels as you walk, do the shopping or go for a drive. Try to guess the words written by your magic finger writing in the air or use scrabble tiles to create games and words. Once you start trying a few fun ideas your ideas will be limitless. Crosswords and simple word searches can be fun. Have some of these ready for when you need some quiet time.
Remember you are a role model for your children. If they see you reading they will know that reading is valued in your house. Even if you are doing some reading for work, let the children know that it’s important to read. Read out a work email in a funny voice. Read them a funny article from the paper or write them a letter that they can try to read back to you. Have a timer and see how long they can read silently for. Try and do better each day.
Reading encompasses recipes, comics and instructions like LEGO instruction sheets as well. There are lots of people online and now on television reading stories, so utilise these resources. Channel Seven Two in Brisbane are beginning their weekly primary school lessons in conjunction with the Queensland Education Department on Friday 1 May and authors like Dr Anita Heiss who hosts Storytime with Aunty Nita are reading stories for Moreton Bay Region Libraries online.
Positive attitudes towards reading and interesting materials that engage your child are the key to successful reading. A four year old would probably not be interested in the life of Margaret Thatcher but might love reading a non fiction book on the life cycle of frogs. They will approach reading in many ways : through prediction, sounding out words phonetically, using rhyme, guessing, using pictures as a clue and developing a bank of sight words from their reading that they recognise.
If you provide a warm and supportive environment where reading is valued, children will develop the joyful expectation that they will eventually learn to read. You are not expected to have the skills and resources of your child’s classroom teacher and things can be more intense when working one on one. Be kind to yourself and be kind to your child and results will follow. Happy Reading!
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).