Knowledge about letters, sounds, pictures and print develop long before your child enters a formal classroom.
One of the goals as a parent of a pre-schooler is to enhance your child’s exposure to language and print. This exposure happens naturally during the course of your day. For example, while shopping with your child, they are learning to read the name of their favourite cereal and what the exit sign means.
Here are five tips that will help you instil a love of reading and language.
1. Create a positive, nurturing environment
Celebrate your child’s early reading behaviours in the same way you might celebrate your child learning to bounce a ball.
Talk is cheap, as they say. It is also the foundation for language and reading development. Stories can be shared orally. Set aside a special time of the day to talk with and listen to your child. Your child will love hearing about the first time you rode a tricycle.
Recycle magazines. Cut apart old magazines and make a scrap box of pictures and words. Have fun creating a new story by gluing or taping the cut out pictures onto clean sheets of papers.
Play word games. “I spy with my little eye, something that is orange and round.” Or, “I spy something that rhymes with log.”
2. Read a variety of books
Read books you remember from your childhood. Favourite stories and characters are timeless.
Read wordless stories and make up stories that go with the pictures.
Read non-fiction to your child. Your child is filled with a lot of interests and curiosities. Simple concept books give your child the vocabulary children need to talk about the world around them.
Children love to fill in the gaps when you read together. Start this with rhymes, songs and finger play. For example, read “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great…”
3. Read purposefully
Read aloud every day to your child. Select books that reflect your child’s culture, home, identity and language. Give your child a world of heroes and adventures through quality literature.
Read things inside your home. Your home is filled with a lot of environmental print such as box labels, mail addresses, messages and notes. Turn this wealth of information into purposeful activities- read around the kitchen today and then the living room tomorrow.
Explore how books work. The very first step to becoming a reader is learning about how print and books work. Talk about the cover of the book and make sure to read aloud the author’s name. Take turns flipping the pages. Point to words as you read and talk about the pictures.
4. Make reading a habit
The ritual of reading a bedtime story cannot be established too early or repeated too often. These enjoyable times when you and your child are close together are essential in establishing a lifelong habit.
Empower your child to select books to read. Read favourite stories over and over. Children love repetition and learn from it.
Make reading material very accessible. Visit the library, browse through books at the local bookshop, for example.
Model reading. Let your child catch you in the act of reading newspapers, magazines, books and even children’s books.
5. Make the reading/writing connection
Young children need to see themselves as readers and writers. Keep writing materials and resources around the house. Pens, pads, markers, notes and so on are important tools for communicating.
Write messages to your child. When you need to be away, leave a message to be read to your child.
Label your child’s possessions. A child’s favourite word is their name. Children will want to see their name writer on everything.