Teachers employ many literacy strategies in the classroom to help all readers grow. We have compiled tips from teachers that help parents use these reading strategies at home, first to introduce early literacy ideas to young children and establish reading experience, and later to support school learning from home.
When teachers first introduce a new book or concept, they spend a few minutes “activating prior knowledge” or helping students consider what they ALREADY know about a subject. By making these connections, children quickly become invested in a new topic or book and begin thinking about words and ideas they might come into contact with. New knowledge can then be added much more easily, and therefore comprehension and learning is improved. When you read with your child from an early age, you are filling their brains with the “prior knowledge” that teachers can capitalize on later. Every new word, setting, character, illustration or situation you read about becomes part of your child’s knowledge base. Consider “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. Though it is wonderfully nonsensical, it still has elements of rhyme, emotion, contrast/opposites, balance, velocity, weather, animals, transportation, and perseverance. Bottom line: the more you read with your child from a wide variety of books, the more your child will know.
Make reading time with your child interactive. If you have been asked to read the same book over, and over again, try to treat each page as a new learning experience. Ask your child specific questions as you read. For example, point to a character on the page and ask: “Who is this?” “What is he/she wearing?” “What is he/she doing?” “What will he/she do next?” If your child is too young to answer, do not stop asking questions, simply provide an answer. Eventually your little one will have the right language and you will have already taught the basics of critical thinking and story interaction.
When you introduce a new book, ask your child to predict, or guess, what the story might be about. Begin by reading the title of the book and point out all the details on the front cover. Ask: "What do you think this story will be about?” If your young child cannot answer, simply model an appropriate prediction. You might say: “I think these cows want to type a letter. Let’s read and find out what they are typing.”
Collect several versions* of a fairy tale from different cultures and compare them. Help your child notice the traditional parts of a fairy tale, such as: magic, talking animals, fantasy, that it takes place in the past, objects/people/or events appearing in threes, or that it solves a problem or teaches a lesson. Talk about the differences and similarities in illustrations. See where the stories lead you!
*Examples: Cinderella or The Glass Slipper [France], Little Rag Girl [Rep. of Georgia], Nomi and the Magic Fish [various, Africa], Benizara and Kakezara [Japan], Katie Woodencloak [Norway], Hearth Cat [Portugal], Poor Turkey Girl [Native American: Zuni], Sumorella: A Hawai’i Cinderella Story (Titles taken from Cinderella, Sierra, 1992)
Will you be researching preschools or daycares for your little one soon? Be sure to look for a reading corner where children can sit and ‘read’ books. Some preschools also have listening libraries. If the preschool you are considering does not boast a reading nook, ask about their plans to add one.
When young ones are learning the alphabet, they usually learn to identify capital letters. However, most books are written in lower case letters. Point out upper case and lower case letters to your child as you read or go about your day. You may want to purchase lower case magnetic letters for your refrigerator as well.
Use books to make connections to every day experiences. Read a book about an activity or destination before you begin. Together, you can be on the lookout for places or items mentioned in the book. Actively thinking about books, and making personal connections, are important reading skills for young children.
Reading the words in a story is only one small part of smart book sharing. Exploring the pictures in your books is one of the best ways to expose your child to vocabulary and images they may not typically come across. As you read with your child today, maximize the reading experience by pointing out items, colors, characters and interesting details on each page.
Reading is much more than pronouncing words. Reading is about thinking. Reading is about making meaning. If you are reading these words right now, THINKING about their meaning, and CONNECTING the meaning with a personal experience, then you are truly a reader. When parents and caregivers read with infants, toddlers and preschoolers, they are teaching children to THINK about words on a page. Once these children begin to read on their own, this skill will already be theirs. When they read a sentence that does not make sense, they will begin again, figure out the error, and then continue on, rather than forging ahead, trying to pronounce the next word.
To reinforce the nature of conversation and character interaction with young children, dolls or puppets can be used to represent one of the speaking characters in a book. Hold up a puppet or doll as ONE character speaks, while simply reading what the other characters are saying. Try changing the inflection or tone of your voice as you move between two or more characters.
"When you educate a woman, you set her free. Had I not had books and education in Mississippi, I would have believed that's all there was."
~ Oprah Winfrey
To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.