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If you have a budding reader on your hands, this article is for you! I’m sharing countless strategies on how to incorporate learning to read into your every day life. These beginning reading strategies are perfect to do with Kindergarteners, first graders and even can be adapted to be done with preschoolers (especially singing rhyming songs and exploring environmental print). Read about literacy skills for your child at any age.
1. Sing rhyming songs and play rhyming games. Rhyming is an important prereading and beginning reading skill that is often overlooked. Read rhyming books (like Dr. Seuss books) and sing rhyming songs. Making up silly rhymes is so much fun for children! Make it a part of everything you do. Once you start, it’s easy. For example, say, “Munch, munch, munch, it’s time for lunch!”
2. Start with words important to your child—mostly their name! The first word many children recognize is their name. I suggest putting their name on the wall or door of the bedroom, get puzzles or cups/plates with their name, and write their name with things like paint, sidewalk chalk, etc. A fun activity to do with your children is to make a Magna Spell-Creating First Words. Start with your child’s name and move from there!
3. Continue reading out loud together. Even if your child is working on reading independently, never, ever stop reading out loud to your child. It’s important for your child to still love and enjoy books. Many times, when children start reading, people stop reading out loud to them and reading becomes a chore. Your child will continue to love hearing you read stories long after they know how to read. Furthermore, children can comprehend a higher reading level when being read out loud to. This means you can read books above their reading level and continue to develop their verbal vocabulary.
4. Make word families—come up with words that start with the same letter/sound and end with the same sound (more rhyming!). I have done something as simple as write “-at” on the board and let the children list all the words they can think of that end with -at (hat, cat, bat, etc.). See what ending you can make the longest list for!
5. Take picture walks in books and make predictions—these are KEY reading strategies for children of all ages. A picture walk simply means, starting with the cover, look at the pictures in the book and talk about what you think might happen in the story. After you read the book, revisit your predictions. Did you and your child guess what was going to happen?
6. Introduce some sight words. Sight words are words that we see often in print (such as be, the, at). Visit ABC Teach for printables related to sight words. One strategy I use with sight words is to find them while we are reading. I’ll pick one sight word and have a child find it everywhere they can in the book.
7. Play beginning reading games together. Our favorites are Scrabble Jr and Boggle Jr.
8. Play learning games online. You can find tons of learning games online. By far, the absolute best website for prereading and early reading skills is Starfall.
9. Some of the first words children identify are words they see in their everyday environment:stop signs, H for the hospital sign, yield, etc. This is called environmental print. I like to make environmental print books and matching games.
10. When your child is becoming more confident, read together, taking turns reading pages. With my daughter, I would read the first page, she would read the next. Also, it’s okay to tell your child a word they are stumbling upon. Nobody is perfect, especially when beginning reading!
11. When you finish a book with your child, ask open-ended questions and have discussions about what you’ve read together. Comprehension is so important because it’s key to be able to understand what you’ve just read. Instead of asking questions with yes/no answers, ask questions that lead to discussion. If you’re reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears, ask questions such as, “Why do you think the bears left the house?” and “What would you do if you were baby bear?”
12. Track (follow text with your finger) words as you read. It’s ok if your child is starting to memorize books; continue to make them track words. When they finish a page, just ask them to find words on the page so they are keeping them fresh, even if they are memorized. For example, “Find ‘zoo’ on this page.”
13. Read books that focus on the same vowel sound throughout a book (short a, long a, short o, long o, etc.): I recommend the BOB Books.
If your child doesn’t identify letters and sounds yet, here is the perfect place for 13 strategies to learn letters (without flashcards). First and foremost, make sure your child is confident in knowing letter and letter sounds!