The magical process of reading involves teaching children to turn letter symbols into meaningful language. Research shows that parents, caregivers, and family members can begin fostering an interest in reading, writing, and language as early as birth. It’s acquired through time spent talking, telling stories, and singing. Surrounding a child in a language rich environment with lots of attention, interaction and lots of things to see and do in their space also is essential to literacy development. This is an important part of fostering a love for reading at an early age and should be done both at home and at school.
At home, families are creating the base on which a child’s understanding of language grows through causal, every day interactions. Reading to a child is perhaps the greatest gift that parents, and family members can give. Allowing the child to see, touch, and play with the book while you are reading creates interest and a true emotional connection between language and the feelings of being comforted and supported. Children should be encouraged to try to read along, to say the memorized parts of their favorite books, to point to the pictures and to ask questions. As children get older, discussions and “what if” questions about the pictures and the story will springboard into creative thinking activities.
With many different learning experiences families try to teach their children, being a good role model is at the top of the list. It is important for children to see that their family members choose to spend some of their time reading. As children get older and their attention span lengthens, the entire family might decide to have some quiet reading time together. It is important for parents to set aside their distractions during this time to model reading by focusing on their book. Setting a “reading break” occasionally will allow family members to discuss the books they are reading with each other.
At school, teachers will introduce reading to children in a variety of ways, using interactive activities, learning games, reading activities, and reinforcement activities. Preschool reading programs also include vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and writing applications. Preschool teachers also conduct guided reading with children, helping them with any words they may not understand.
A strong preschool reading program will include components such as:
- Foundational Literacy, which are activities that promote early literacy skills. These include interactive storybook reading, games that help children identify the letters of the alphabet, and interactive experiences with language and print through poems and nursery rhymes.
- Read-Alouds – a systematic method of reading aloud helps children understand the book being read and teaches vocabulary and concepts.
- Repetition – A story book is read several times in slightly different ways to increase children’s analytical skills as they answer carefully crafted questions about the book.
- Alphabet Knowledge – children are taught how to recognize upper and lower-case letters and associate them with the sounds they make.
- Phonetic Awareness – children learn to manipulate the sounds that make up language, including recognizing sounds in words and matching those sounds to letters.
- Print Awareness – children are taught to understand the features of books and print, including how printed words run from left to right and top to bottom and the parts of a book.
In this day and age, children are surrounded by electronic means of stimulation and the magic of reading is sometimes left undiscovered. Becoming a great reader happens one book at a time and developing a life-long love for reading starts in childhood.