Long before a child starts school and picks up a book belonging to a reading scheme they accumulate skills that will shape their ‘reading experience’. Soon after birth babies start to hear songs that are sung to them, traditional rhymes and music all which will help with develop language and ultimately communication and reading skills.
- Experiencing music is not just about listening to pleasant sounds, it is also about learning rhythm and learning about how it make us feel in just the way that a novel can realise our feelings through words.
- Rhymes usually have their own rhythm and through repetition encourage children to join in and eventually to have the confidence to repeat unaided.
Bedtime stories are a great way of sharing a story. There are some wonderful stories that are written for the young listener. There are also some great traditional stories that adults and older siblings know by heart and can share with a younger child. The fun aspect of this is that the story will soon become a favourite as it is enjoyed because of the personalisation added to the story and without a book, it encourages imagination. The younger child will soon pick out if the story is not told in exactly the same way every time.
A child’s first book should be pictures or a picture a page with just one sentence a page, where you can share and look at the details.
A child can never be too young to visit the library. It should be seen as an opportunity to encourage making choices, learn behaviour expectations and responsibility. This may sound very Victorian, but a child should be able to explore choices for reading material, even if they don’t get it right every time and need a little direction with their choices.
Learning to read also involves listening skills. Help a child with skills by using the first letter of their name and help them form the shape (using different mediums such as paint, glue and glitter etc.), encourage them to find other words that start with that letter, make a collection of things that begin with that letter.
- Make a set of picture cards that tell a story. Encourage the child to put the cards in a logical order. It does not have to be a familiar story but it must be a story that has a logical progression.
- Make a game of finding rhyming words – this can be fun. Decide whether you want to use nonsense words.
- Listening skills – games like Chinese Whispers. Find some objects that make familiar noises and play a guessing game.
When they have a favourite story, encourage them to tell the story themselves and draw their own pictures. By making their own pictures they are illustrating what they see in their imagination when you read the story. They may like to make their own book – start off with using one sentence for one picture. Or they may like to retell the story using ‘puppets’ which can be simply made using card and decorated (finger puppets) or by using fabric to make glove puppets. They could also make small models out of clay that will depict the characters.
Look at factual books as well as story books. It is also a good idea that young children know that information can be accessed through the internet as well. There are several websites that are suitable for a young child to access with their parents to look at things like animals and places.
- When a child is ready to write their own stories, point out that stories have a beginning, a middle (when something happens) and an end.
- Comics are a great idea, most of the comics today that are aimed at younger audiences have stories, games and puzzles. Sometimes they are a great way to encourage a reluctant older reader.
- Don’t forget the use of a tablet or laptop as most of them have an art package as standard and can help enhance writing or pictures.
- Don’t forget notes, cards and invitations all require reading skills.
Above all have fun.