"(Don't) let anxiety about how well a child is reading at school get in the way of encouraging them to enjoy it. Read together as a family. Model reading as a fun activity. Give books as gifts, or make trips to the library a regular part of the family routine. Make books the easy choice of entertainment, and reading a special treat all on its own." - Pamela Paul ('How to Raise A Reader')
This is the fourteenth blog entry focused on Home Reading this school year,
intended to help families successfully support children as they learn to read :)
Thirteen previous blog entries this school year have explored a variety of aspects of home reading - everything from building oral language to alphabet recognition to encouraging fluency development. These are key areas of reading that can be encouraged at home with children, without undo effort or resources. The benefits of home reading have been thoroughly explored - albeit not exhaustively - as well, and a few recommendations for some of my favourite reading books to share with children. This blog entry is going to begin exploring reading strategies parents can encourage children to use at home, in response to parent questions about what to focus on as they are supporting their children reading at home.
Strategies for Earliest Readers
The earliest readers are those children who are Pre-K/Kindergarten aged students, just beginning to look at text with a critical eye, more than just enjoying the pictures as they are being read to by parents or other trusted adults. Children arrive at a stage where they can begin to explore text through a more critical or specific lens at different points in time; a child who is highly attentive to illustrations and understands particular words 'belong' to specific pages in a book (for example, when a child says, "you made a mistake!' when you are re-reading a favourite story, or "you skipped a page!"), is probably ready to begin exploring the pictures more thoroughly, or matching specific words to specific pictures. With earliest readers, try these strategies - gently at first:
- play 'Detective': point out features in pictures that carry meaning, such as 'swoop marks' indicating a character is running, or a question mark or light bulb above a character's head, that hold additional meaning as children begin to truly investigate what meaning illustrations might hold; as parents engage in this process, children begin to echo these behaviours and will try to find some of their own - this helps children build a sense of 'prediction' associated with stories and to identify characters, setting, action
- 'Who is in this story?": when reading fiction with earliest readers, talk about who is in the story to encourage the children to notice clues about the character embedded in pictures and words - what they look like, are wearing, what they say or repeat, and relationships - this helps earliest readers begin to make connections between text and real life, as well as the story itself, an essential foundational strategy for encouraging reading comprehension
- " Words have meaning" - children need to understand letters and sounds make words to begin using decoding skills for sure, and understanding what a 'word' is as a representation of a thing is an abstract concept that often requires multiple introductions before a child truly realizes that little collection of letters is a 'word' that means 'something'
- playing matching games with words and pictures, labelling their favourite things in their room or around the house, taking pictures of specific things they are familiar with in their lives and then labeling the pictures are all easy ways to reinforce the 'words represent something' concept
- one easy way to develop repetitive skill building around 'word means thing' concepts is to create 'reading books' with your child using pictures and one or two word labels on each page; personal reading books are an easy way to build reading knowledge at a personal level
These are foundational reading skills - really pre-reading skills - that prepare children for highly successful, future reading experiences that parents can support through home reading. It is important to remember that foundational skills are essential for all readers and without them, children may struggle to achieve reading success over time. Regardless of age or stage, parents can engage students in these easy home reading strategies to ensure the foundation pieces are sturdily in place.
Principal, Eric Harvie School