I could not remember when the lines above Atticus’s moving finger separated into words, but I had stared at them all the evenings in my memory…..anything Atticus happened to be reading when I crawled into his lap every night.
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
For me, the above quote is the most memorable of all the cute, wise things Scout has uttered in Harper Lee’s famous novel. There’s a hint of enchantment in that sentence which makes you wonder what exactly clears the smoke of letters into instantly recognisable words and it almost does happen in a stroke of magic.
I remember one day in Prep Term 2 when Tomu read a particularly difficult word and it must have surprised him because he excitedly exclaimed: “I read that without sounding it out!”
How do you make the magic happen?
Listed below are four activities you can do, during the prep year, to set the stage for your child’s easy learning to read experience. The whole process is not contrived, rather based on observational and incidental learning using conversation and age-appropriate questions.
Play spot-o with a difference.
There are plenty of great words on the road signs. Engage your child with the words that surround them. Just observe at first, awareness is what we are aiming for. Start with a simple sign like STOP. Another great one is KEEP LEFT because there’s so many of these on the road. The game is to spot the word and yell it out. For ages, Tomu wouldn’t look at any other road sign except for the STOP sign, so I didn’t push it because obviously he wasn’t ready for it. He was halfway through prep before he started reading the other road signs.
The word LANE pops up in the signs bicycle lane & form one lane. Once your child has learnt the ‘magic e’ words in prep, these are great signs to point out. This is where the presence of the ‘e’ changes the vowel ‘a’ into a long sound. That would be the difference between saying CAR and CARE. Other ‘magic e’ words on road signs are CARE, SHARE & ZONE.
We played spot the utes with big words splashed across the back, mainly TOYOTA and ISUZU. There were enough of these on the road to make a fun game. These words ended up being one of the first ones Tomu could recognise aside from his name when he was in kindy. This game is fun as you can also pay attention to word patterns. O-Y-O, a Y with two O’s on either side is a good pattern.
Repetition is the key here. When your child sees these words every day, automatic recognition will happen and that aids in their reading.
Sight word search
Circle the sight words.
Any print you have lying around is good for this activity – newsletters, brochures or magazines. You can present it as a hunt for words. Pick a sight word and ask your child to circle all the words they can find. This is a useful activity to anchor sight words such as THE, AND, YOU, YOUR, FOR, WITH and many of the first 100 sight words. Once your child has their sight words down, reading becomes a breeze! And, sight words are everywhere, you just have to look.
I carried a pencil and small brochures in my bag which I fished out when we had long boring waits at appointments and found I could keep Tomu occupied for a little while.
If you get 5 minutes of attention from your child for this activity, you’re doing good. That’s all you need too, baby steps are what’s required to conquer the mountain.
Write out shopping lists
Copying words is a good task.
Kids love to help out in any way and you can ask them to write out the shopping list. Help find words like apple, banana, ham & bread from junk mail or just recite the word for them. Your child can copy the words out or cut & paste to make the shopping list. The more your child is surrounded by words, pathways will form in the brain, making learning easier. This activity is great because it’s not really a learning exercise, just an everyday task that everyone does!
This is another great 5 to 10-minute activity that will help with their word recognition, sound groups and spelling when they come across these words later on. Tomu was keen to add roll-ups to the list!
What happens here is, words become familiar at sight and that will give your child a head start when they are learning to read.
The best activity of all!
Story-time before bed is almost like meditation for the soul. This enjoyable together time with your child is linked to all-round literacy benefits including improved reading, language development and communication skills.
Recent research suggests that even when your child has learnt to read, continuing reading to them past age 7 has intellectual and emotional advantages.
Let your child loose at the library so they can pick all their favourite reads. According to their age, board books, picture books, non-fiction picture books are all great ones to have on the bedside table. For older kids, try reading a chapter book together over several nights.
Dare I suggest that you read poetry to your kids too! You’ll be surprised how receptive 5-year-olds are to poetry. With great poetry books like It Came From Outer Space by Paul Cookson & David Harmer, do give it a go. Check out the Poetry tab on the right to find more poetry books suitable for kids, which are all available at Brisbane City Council Libraries.
Really, anytime that suits you is a good time to read books to your kids, morning, afternoon, whenever! But, for busy working parents, that can be a challenge, so, check out You Tube’s many channels where picture books are read aloud or do Audible, it’s all good. We did all of the above activities from the beginning of the prep year. These strategies have helped us and complimented the great learning happening in prep classrooms.
The best thing is you only require props around the house or the neighbourhood and they are so easy to do.
Coupled with the 10-minute reading every day, your child will have a great start to their learning to read experience. In Queensland, from Prep term 2, kids bring home readers starting with ones that are short and have very simple text. Do sit with your child to listen and help them read or just read your favourite picture book!
Gaining literacy was never meant to be tedious, but fun & free!
Please share what other reading strategies you have tried and which ones you found helpful. I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.