My toddler Abe is 4, and we have been working on encouraging him to read because he really is starting to take interest in it- most days. Here are some of the tactics we have been using lately.
1. We are encouraging him to WANT to read rather than pressuring him to read.
I shared in one of my posts how there was a point where I was pressuring Abe to read, and we were both getting frustrated. He was not even four when I started doing this, and I realized the wrong of what I was doing and backed off. In the last few months, my approach has changed, and Abe has been doing very good progress in his reading readiness.
At his preschool conference, his teacher shared a resource for screening reading readiness. Anyone can use this resource to check their child’s “reading readiness.” The reliability is not perfect, as is no screening tool. Still, measurable tests can give a good place to start in gauging what to work on with your child.
Abe scored a 15/18. He has some work to do, but the score suggests he is very close to being ready. To encourage, sometimes I just have to word things in a bit of a challenging way or present some opportunities for practicing in a way desirable for him. Here are some phrases I use egging on his own excitement and pride in being able to read as well as making him aware of the need for reading:
~ You are becoming a very great reader!
~ Wow you are really starting to know the sounds of all of the letters. Pretty soon you will be able to sound out so many words!
~ Someday you will be able to read to me at bedtime! That will be so cool!
~ [pointing out fun signs] Do you know what that sign is saying? [read it to him] That was pretty [funny, important,…]
~ I’m going to read this, so we find out what happens!
~Should we try to figure out what word this is? [some days he will just say no, and I am just fine with that]
2. Phonics focus rather than letter recognition.
In reading the Montessori approach at this great blog Living Montessori Now, I learned that writing comes before reading. Abe loves the activity of us drawing a picture and making up a short story about it. We have done this since he was 2, and it has been a favorite still. This activity lines up quite well with the Montessori approach. It’s always nice when something that you are doing is considered a good approach. The stories are as simple as “The birds eat seeds” when he drew a picture of “birds and dots”. I will guide his hand to write the letters and make the sounds along with each letter. He likes to “read” the stories we make to his dad. Lately, he is quite good at writing the words himself as we sound out slowly the words we have chosen to make a story for our pictures.
I also learned phonics (the letter sounds) are way more important than letter recognition. Having children focus on knowing the sounds of the letters over the letter name will get the child to the stage of reading. I started out having him just tell me the letters, but I realized that mistake in when he would approach a word like dog and tell me the letters versus telling me the sounds. As we worked on identifying sounds, he could hear the word he was sounding out.
3. Using the kid’s desire to break our super-secret parent code
We spell things out a lot. I mean, are you even a parent if you haven’t used the trick of spelling out a word you do not want your child to hear?
A couple months ago, my husband spelled out z-o-o when he was making suggestions for what we could do one weekend. Abe was sitting there and started to make the sounds. He then got excited when he asked, “the zoo?!” We exchanged the look of, WOAH, and a little bit of OH NO! We, of course, had to go to the zoo after that and rewarded Abe for sounding that out! He was pretty happy with himself, and so were we!
Abe is still far from being able to sound out most other words we spell! We do this secret talk A LOT, but also write it out to each other, giving Abe a chance to figure it out. We’re rooting for him secretly and using a bit of reverse psychology in pretending we don’t want him to figure us out.
4. Letters of the Week
We have been trying to do letters of the week as we work on getting Abe to reading. This week was the letter F.
At the preschool I was teaching at, I tried to establish a routine for our learning sessions. I observed a preschool class, and I really found the power of consistency there. As hard as consistency is, I am trying as I kind of continue to do preschool teaching to Abe at home.
After breakfast, we have a clear, focused moment to recall the letter of the week and some consistent, expected practices (at home, this is the equivalent of the circle time we had at school). At the beginning of the week, I write the letter I have chosen for that week, and later on in the week, Abe writes it. I draw things on the paper and have him guess what I am drawing (they are all things that start with that letter). I always give him the option of drawing things too for me to guess. We hang these sheets on his wall next to his bed.
We do a thumbs up or thumbs down game for whether words/things start with our letter of the day. It is kind of like my What is the Letter game I used to do with him. I put several things in a box, or sometimes I just say things, and he has to tell me with a thumbs up or a thumbs down [he also goes EEEEEHHHH!] if the item is good for our letter.
I do a guess what I am making game. I will have a craft that he can do later, but I introduce the craft by asking him to guess what I am making. He knows it starts with the letter of the week. This week for “F” I made a fish with those sticky dots. Me doing it also models it for him to do his own craft.
At preschool after our letter activities, we would break into centers which some of them would revolve around the letter. Mostly they would involve crafts, play-do, and Legos. Here are some of the successful “centers” I did with Abe for F this week.
F is for flying saucer. Here we made a fun craft. Abe also had the idea to connect it to the fan which also starts with f, and why not? We all had a hilarious time getting it to fly around on the fan. He also constructed some flying saucers with legos we attached to the fan too. Watch out though. Maybe tape the string to the fan because the weight of them + inertia I think made them fly really.
F is for flying saucer lunch. This is one of Abe’s favorite meals that we call flying saucers. I cook up a burger on the stove, reserve a tablespoon of the grease and make gravy. We serve mashed potatoes and peas with it. We pretend the peas are little aliens and Abe is the alien-eating monster… You could also do fish sticks, the goldfish crackers and goldfish activities for a fish day.
F is for fast and F is for far. We did races for who was the fastest and farthest. We did running and we also did an activity we happened upon kind of by chance. We made rams using tape measures going down the steps. This actually occupied both my kids for almost an hour a few times. There are not many activities that hold attention this long, so I would highly recommend this one. We started out sending some crayons down the ramps. We also built lego racers, found markers, chopsticks, and even a battery. It turned into a little science experiment on making predictions about what types of items would go the fastest and farthest down our ramps.
Have another good week! I again wish everyone happy writing and reading! I need to get back on my NaNoWriMo. I have not been good these last couple nights, and neeeed to get caught up! Bye!
Also, I was honored to be a guest post on SundayMorningwithSandy’s blog this week where she shared my adoption story. Thank you, my dear friend, Sandy for sharing out my story. You are an inspirational writer and woman, leading such a great cause of awareness of human experience and kindness.
Thanks for reading!