Children need to read, not only for academic reasons but because reading is an important skill to develop. Many of life’s normal activities (e.g. filling out an employment application) involve reading. By laying a solid foundation of pre-reading skills, a child is better prepared to master the essential skills when learning to read.
Never underestimate the intelligence level of a baby. From the moment a baby is born the infant is learning about the world through their senses, with particular emphasis on the sense of hearing. Since an infant is listening to the sounds around them, one of the best pre-reading skills a parent can do is to talk to the baby. This allows the child to hear words being pronounced correctly, and to catch the cadence of normal conversation. When the baby is able to sit up, place the child on your lap and read a book to them. Select a simple board book that is colorful, or perhaps one that has a “touch and feel” aspect. Read the same book over and over to allow the child to recognize the book, the cover of the book and the spoken words.
With toddlers, reading a book together should be part of the everyday routine. Now, you can ask the child questions about the story or the characters. When the story is familiar, encourage the child to act out the story with you. As you read, use an animated voice or change your voice to suit the characters. This shows the child the excitement of a book, and whets their appetite for more of the same. Drawing pictures is also an important pre-reading skill. A crayon drawing is often a child’s first attempt at story-telling. A connection is being made in the child’s mind between the verbal and the written word; crayons and paper allow this connection to develop.
As you and your toddler go through your normal daily routine, point out any words that you see. By seeing words on the cereal box, a stop sign or your street’s sign, the child begins to understand the vital link between reading and life’s activities. Words become a part of the child’s life in a meaningful way.
As the time gets closer for the first day of school, teach the child the alphabet. Show the preschooler the letters in their name and how to write each one. Reading should make up an important part of each day. Visit the library often and have the child select books. Ask insightful questions about the stories. These types of activities reveal the link between letters, their sounds and the words that are created. Perhaps the biggest goal to reach with preschoolers is to have them understand that words unlock exciting ideas and thoughts.
At every stage, from infant to toddler to preschooler, the one underlying activity that a parent can do to ensure academic success is to read to the child every day. Open a book and open a child’s mind to success.