I remember a child in the third grade looking up at me and saying, “If you can’t read, you can’t do anything.” She was an adorable redhead, eager to learn and very curious about everything.
We often think of learning to read in the early years as learning the alphabet, recognizing the letters, understanding the sounds the letters make and putting sounds together to make words. The most critical element in learning to read, however, is comprehension. It’s the ability to understand and analyze what is being read. It’s the joy within reading.
Students with poor reading comprehension skills struggle not just in reading but also in every other subject and in real-life situations. Fortunately, young children can begin to develop comprehension skills even before they learn to read. When your infant is babbling while holding a book, those noises have meaning as the child looks at the familiar images. Early scribbling is a child’s way of telling a story on paper. All of these early skills and experiences lay the foundation for all later learning.
Here are five ideas to help your children develop early pre-reading skills.
- Attend local plays, story hour at the library or puppet shows.
- While reading the story, ask thought–provoking questions. “Why do you think Goldilocks went into the bears’ house?” “What could she have done instead?” Talking about the story while reading it helps make a stronger connection to the story for your children.
- Before you open a book, look at the cover. Ask your children what the story might be about based on the picture on the front of the book.
- Make simple stick puppets related to a favorite book or fairy tale. Help your children roleplay the story. Point out that the story has a beginning, middle and end.
- Read nonfiction books that relate to your child’s interests. Children especially love books about animals, the outdoors and people.
You can also get out crayons and paper and each draw pictures of the characters in the story. Find a few minutes each day for reading, and not only will it help your children’s development, but it will also create special moments for your family.