Six Skills Your Child Needs to Learn to Read – Starting from Birth
Knowing the name of things
Why is it important? Children need to know the meaning of words to understand what they are reading. The more words a child hears, the more words they understand which helps them make connections when they begin to read.
How you can help! You can help your child develop his vocabulary by naming things. Name things children see in their daily lives, point out things in books and name them or ask your child if he knows what something is.
Noticing print, knowing how to handle a book and follow the written word on a page
Why is it important? Children with print awareness understand that the squiggly lines on a page make up words, and that words make up the story. They also understand that the story continues and learn to flip the page.
How you can help! You help your child develop print awareness every time you read to them. You can also help by pointing out that print is, literally, everywhere. Point out signs – stop signs, names of stores – whatever print your child sees regularly!
The ability to describe things and tell stories
Why is it important? Narrative skills are important for children to be able to understand what they are reading. Good narrative skills lead to good reading comprehension.
How you can help! Tell your child stories – even short ones. Engage in conversation with even the youngest of children. Ask your baby, “Should we get dressed now?” (pause) “Okay, lets get dressed! First we’ll take off your pajamas…” Ask your toddler or preschooler what happened to them during their day, and then ask for more details.
A child's interest in and enjoyment of books
Why is it important? A child with print motivation enjoys books, plays with books, enjoys being read to and may begin to pretend to write. Children who enjoy books and reading will want to learn how to read and will read more.
How you can help! Read to your child often and keep it fun! Keep your child close to you and read to your child when you are both in a good mood, so that the experience is multisensory, enjoyable and loving.
The ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words
Why is it important? This skill helps children learn to sound out words as they begin to read by breaking words down into smaller sounds. This skill is critical to being able to learn how to read, and is considered an early predictor of reading ability, as it indicates a child’s ability to “break the code” between written language and spoken language.
How you can help Play rhyming games, say nursery rhymes, recite poetry and sing songs to your child. Speak intentionally, placing emphasis on each syllable or letter sound in a word and breaking words down into parts. Ask your child to think of words that start (or end) with the same sound.
Knowing that letters are different from each other, that each letter has a name and is related to a word
Why is it important? In order to read, a child must understand that words are made up of letters and that each letter makes a sound.
How you can help Helping your baby or toddler learn different shapes will help prepare her to recognize what is similar or different in letters later on. Help your preschooler learn her abc’s by pointing out letters and practice writing them with crayons, paint, chalk or in the sand.
Babies and Toddlers Booklist
You are your baby’s first teacher. From the moment a baby is born, they are ready to learn, and begin to understand language long before they can speak. Very young children acquire knowledge through all of their senses – sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Reading to your baby helps foster brain development and early literacy skills.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends reading daily to babies from six months of age.
Here’s what we know:
Babies begin to learn about language from birth. Reading aloud exposes your child to the sounds of human speech.
By age two, children know between 300-500 words. Children who are spoken to and frequently read to have larger vocabularies and develop into better readers.
Sharing books with your baby lays the foundation for learning to read.
Help your baby:
- Attend Babytime at the Ferguson Library.
- Allow your baby to explore board books or soft, vinyl books. Babies often learn about their world by chewing on things – sometimes reading looks like chewing!
- Point to different things in the book and name them.
- Your baby loves the sound of your voice. Nursery rhymes and songs are fun at any time – in the car, at bath time, at mealtime – and help develop language skills.
- Use different voices when you read to your child. Give different characters different voices and make the sound of the animals that your baby sees.
- Ask your baby questions about what’s happening on the page, such as “Where is the cow?” Pause, then point and answer for the baby, “Oh, there’s the cow!”
- Have fun! Relax and enjoy this special time with your baby. If you’re not in the mood, or your baby is cranky or distracted, then it’s not the time to share a book.
Babies Like Books with:
- Photos of other babies
- Clear pictures of familiar things in their world
- Lots of rhythm and repetition
- Animals and animal sounds
- Textures. Touch-and-feel books are great
Babies and Toddlers Booklist
A burst of research on brain activity in the past few years is giving us a whole new understanding of how the brain develops and the crucial role of early language experiences, including reading. Toddlers love the opportunity to practice their developing language skills. Reading to your toddler and asking questions about the illustrations, setting and characters helps develop the early literacy skills important to their developing brain.
Here’s what we know:
Toddlers learn about nine new words a day. Children who are read and spoken to often develop larger vocabularies and can become better readers.
Nearly 50% of a child’s learning occurs in the first five years of life.
Reading with your toddler is the best way to prepare your child to learn to read.
Help your toddler:
- Read a variety of books. Alphabet books, rhyming books, books about animals and children their age are popular with toddlers.
- Read it again and again and again! Your toddler will know their favorite books and ask for them by name. Their brains are “wired” to learn best through repetition.
- Talk to your toddler as you read the book – or take turns “reading” by letting your child tell you the story from the pictures. Give your child plenty of time to focus on the pages that interest him.
- Don’t worry if your child skips pages or only wants to look at the pictures. What is most important is that you and your child enjoy your time exploring books together.
- Take time to regularly point out print to your toddler and make connections between letters and sounds or things in their world – such as “D is for Duck”.
- Get your toddler talking! Engage in creative play using pretend phone conversations or puppets.
Preschoolers are almost ready to read. Children this age can sit for longer stories and begin to retell the story to you. They can also recognize and sometimes even write their own name as well as recognize many letters of the alphabet, signs and labels.
Here’s what we know:
Between the ages of three and six a preschooler’s vocabulary can grow from 2000 to 13,000 words.
Children who love books will become better readers.
Help your preschooler:
- Read and re-read your child’s favorite books, while also introducing her to new favorites.
- Follow the words in books with your finger, so that your child can “see” the rhythm of the words, as well as hear them.
- Let your child choose what books to read and let him retell the story to you in his own words.
- Read books that use predictable words or repetitive language.
- Continue to make connections between letters, the sounds they make and the words that begin with those letters – and introduce rhymes.