For many children, the reading journey begins when they start kindergarten. However, parents might not realize that children start familiarizing with words and letters much sooner. Every time children hear stories read aloud, they are beginning their journey into reading.
Children learn to read at different ages. Some children take longer to master decoding, but others start reading at a very young age. Here’s how to help kids read before kindergarten and appreciate a love of stories and books, too:
- Read to children every day
- Play alphabet and word games
- Take children to the library
- Empower children to choose their own books
- Reread favorite stories
- Ask questions while reading
- Tell stories
Preschoolers and Reading
Helping kids read before kindergarten shouldn’t be focused on pushing them to read fluently or even to master skills before they are ready. Instead, parents should simply help younger children learn to appreciate books and stories so they can enjoy reading and understand that stories are an adventure in words.
Pushing children to read before they are ready could result in frustration, and children might even begin to view books negatively. Parents can take cues from their child as they explore books together; some children may be excited to start sounding out words or trying to read on their own.
Some children might just love to hear stories read aloud. They might enjoy the experience of listening to these adventures.
Read to Children Everyday
Read to preschoolers every day. Parents can designate a special story time after lunch, before a nap or even as part of the bedtime routine. Listening to stories helps children learn new vocabulary.
In fact, by the time they start kindergarten, children who read five books a day have heard 1.4 million more words than children whose parents didn’t read to them. This is known as the “one-million word gap.”
Play Alphabet and Word Games
Children learn through play. Use alphabet games to help introduce children to the fundamentals of reading. Help children learn their alphabet by singing the alphabet song.
Parents can also play alphabet match games with children. Make two cards for each letter (one uppercase and one lowercase). Take turns flipping over the cards; say the letter when the card is flipped.
Some children can enjoy playing match games with words and pictures, too. For example, parents can make match games with common sight words. Parents who don’t feel crafty also can buy match games.
Take Children to the Library
Preschoolers aren’t too young for the library. Take them to the library and let them explore the children’s section. Encourage children to pick out a few books that interest them. The library can help children find books that introduce new characters, new ideas and new adventures, too.
Some public libraries host story time for young children. This is a great way for children to hear new stories, meet new friends and participate in fun activities, too.
Many libraries offer reading programs during the summer to encourage reading and help make sure that children don’t fall down the summer slide. These programs might award prizes to children when they hit certain reading milestones. Parents can explore all the different programs and activities offered by their local library.
Let Children Pick Their Books
Many preschoolers are just learning their alphabet or might be reading simple stories. When children are at the library or at the bookstore, parents should let them pick out their own books. This can help children feel empowered in their reading journey and select books that interest them.
If children pick out books that are too difficult, parents can read them aloud. The joy of letting children pick out their own books is that sometimes their choices might surprise parents. The books children choose may help parents better understand their child’s unique interests.
Re-read Favorite Stories
Adults might have a favorite book that they’ve read over and over. It’s also not uncommon for children to want to hear the same book read to them again and again. Let children re-read their favorite books.
Re-reading books is a great way to help children spot new details or even learn to master simple words they see in the story. Sometimes children just love a certain character.
While parents should also encourage children to read a variety of books, mixing in old favorites with new stories can be comforting.
Ask Questions and Talk about the Story
When reading to preschoolers, parents should talk about the book and the characters. Ask children questions about what they think will happen next. If they are reading or listening to parents read a favorite book, children might know exactly what comes next!
Talking about a book helps children think about the story. Parents can even ask questions after finishing the story. Ask children about their favorite character. Did they like the story? What was their favorite part?
Parents Can Tell Stories to their Children, Too
Stories don’t have to be written and bound. Parents can tell stories to children about their childhood. Parents also can make up stories with their children.
When driving in the car, parents can start a story and have children continue it. Go back and forth adding to the story and creating fun adventures. This is a bit like playing Mad Libs. Who knows what turn the story will take?
Should Parents Use Formal Reading Programs for Preschoolers?
Not all children are ready to read before kindergarten. Exposing them to books and stories, though, can help prepare children for reading.
What if children are interested in reading and have started to decode simple words, should parents use formal reading programs to encourage their reading abilities? If children are interested in reading and are sounding out words independently, parents could use reading programs that are designed for preschoolers and younger readers.
Readability can be used from preschool through fifth grade, and this means that the program can grow with the child’s reading abilities. Readability includes a built-in AI tutor that features voice recognition technology. The tutor learns each child’s voice.
Stories are read aloud with Readability. If a preschooler has difficulty with a word, the tutor provides help. At the end of each story, the tutor also asks questions to gauge the child’s comprehension.
Each Readability book also includes a list of vocabulary words. However, Readability encourages children to explore every word in the story. Children can tap a word and hear the definition or they can hear the word used in a sentence. Young readers can access all the words they discover via their word bank.
How do parents know the best reading level for their child? Readability can help determine the ideal beginning reading level; this ensures that the lessons won’t be too hard for very young readers.
Preschoolers also can listen to their favorite stories with Readability’s Storytime feature. Children can listen to stories in the car, on vacation or at home. If parents don’t have time to read to their children, Readability can read to them!
Let Children Guide the Reading Journey
Not all children will decode words before kindergarten, and not all children will express interest in learning to read at a young age. However, reading to children every day exposes them to new words and new ideas and adventures.
Children who are read to every day will have a vocabulary advantage before they hit kindergarten. In addition, exposure to books also helps children enjoy reading. Encouraging the love of stories can be an important step in facilitating the next step of the reading journey.