Your four year old, non-reader pulls out a book to share with you. Instead of asking you to read it, they want to read it to you! Your child is excited to share their beloved book, and you are excited to see them read. They open the book and, barely looking at the words, recite the story, sometimes using their own language. You, disappointed that they are not “really reading”, pat the child on the back and say, “That’s nice.”
This is a common occurrence and a common fear for parents. As a reading specialist and teacher, I’ve heard it many times. People fear their child is “merely” reciting from memory and that this is not meaningful to their “learning to read” job. But just the opposite is happening!
The child is showing many important reading behaviors. They are showing that they understand how a story works, even if they are “just” reading the pictures. They are showing their enthusiasm for reading and books. They are showing a complex understanding of important reading behaviors—that they read a book from left to right (in English and Spanish), that they turn the page in a specific direction, and that these words on the page are “saying” something. They are moving in a wonderful direction towards a love of reading and simultaneously starting to actually learn to read.
Here are some simple cues that you can use to deepen your child’s knowledge of text. You now have an opportunity to really examine the letters, words, and sounds of the story with your child in a meaningful way.
- Have them point to each word as they read (it helps to make that one-to-one connection)
- Ask them to point to specific words on the page. “Which one says ‘cat’? How did you know that?” “Oh! I hear the /c/ sound at the beginning and the /t/ sound at the end.”
- Notice when they have done something great! “I see that you knew the word was ‘violin’. How did you know that?”
- Enjoy the story with them. “Wow! What will he do now?”
- Remember not to make it arduous, have fun! : )
When a child has memorized a book, think of this as a wonderful jumping off place. Let the joy of reading begin!
If you want some guidance on determining what is the right level for your beginning reader try viewing our book pack guide.