As your child nears the beginning reading stage, there are some small but meaningful ways you can engage the world around them to help them along and inspire an enthusiasm for reading.
Play with Words
Research shows that children who can distinguish distinct sounds in words often find learning to read easier. There are many fun ways to play with words and rhyming that will help reaffirm this skill. While commuting, make up tongue twisters, find the first letter of your child's name in the signs around you, sing funny rhyming songs and change the words. The sillier the words, the more fun they will have and the more they will want to play.
Make up a Story to a Wordless Picture Book
Wordless picture books can be both beautiful and useful. "Reading the pictures" is a wonderful precursor to great comprehension skills later on. It confirms that the book tells a story no matter what form it comes in. It helps children develop their own story telling abilities—having a beginning, middle, and end, etc. Also, the story can develop and change every time you tell it. A few of our favorites are Maps, The Conductor (shown in above picture), Zoom, and Flotsam.
Make Your Own Books
In teacherese, we call this a Language Experience Activity. You are connecting a child's experience and natural language to written language. Let the child choose an experience they want to document, whether it be a walk in the woods, a trip to grandma's house, or just a normal day in their life, and then have them dictate or help write the story. You can use photographs or their drawings to illustrate the story, and you can bind the book easily by stapling or sewing it. Children love to read these homemade books over and over!
Another source of inspiration for a homemade book can be a fun research activity. Go leaf collecting and make a book of colors or types of leaves. Research which tree the leaf comes from, glue it in your book, label it, write the name of the tree. The child can keep adding to it with each new leaf and go back to it later as a reference.
Your child's favorite book is a great jumping off place for map making. Create a map of their favorite place in a book, such as Pooh's Corner or Alice in Wonderland. Alternatively, create a map sourced only from your child's imagination. Take this opportunity to label important things on the map (roads, bodies of water, buried treasure) or create secret symbols that can be decoded by the map reader. You can make it look old by burning some holes in it and soaking it in tea for several hours. Hide it! Find it! Have an adventure!
Play with Letters in a Child's Name
A great way to begin learning letters is to use the letters in your child's name. Partnering letter making with sensory (tactile, oral, visual) activities will engage your child and help reaffirm the association between the letters and their sounds and meanings. Have your child trace letters in finger paint, sand, or shaving cream, or make letters out of sandpaper, clay, or their own bodies. Play sound games with the first letter of their name and find words that begin (bang, banana, bop) or end (cab, fib, tub) with this letter. Pick out a word on a sign or in a book and have them find the first letter of their name in that word. Mix up the letters in a familiar word, like their name, and have them put the letters in the correct order. This shows them that the order of the letters in words is important.
Carry a Poem in Your Pocket
There's nothing better than a thoughtful surprise. Kids love surprises and you can easily preplan this one. Pick out your favorite Shel Silverstein poem or any poem you can't wait to share with your child, and hide it somewhere you can easily get to it later. Then, at a perfectly random moment, reach into your pocket and pull out the poem. Make sure to act surprised! "Look what I just found!" Read your magic poem and watch as your child is enchanted. They may even start looking for their own poems to hide.
Utilize Free Community Events at Libraries and Bookstores
In every community, there are libraries and shops that offer wonderful programs—often for free. They list these programs at their place of business, in local papers, and on their websites. We love doing events at the local shops that carry our books. Not only are they free, but you often get to meet the artist or author of your favorite (or soon-to-be favorite!) book and your child gets to do a wonderful activity! Use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to follow your favorite local shops. They will tweet or post when these events are happening.
Utilize Free Online Resources
Don't forget about the internet! There are endless websites that provide helpful resources for parents. Here are a few that we recommend, although there are many, many more:
- Artful Parenting: This blog has many wonderful ideas every week. She also has published a great book full of ideas for bringing artistic inspiration to children.
- An Everyday Story: Kate details the homeschooling of her children on this beautiful Reggio-inspired blog. You'll find inspiring activities and thoughtful conversations around early childhood development.
- Playful Learning: This website has a beautifully curated collection of lessons for children around all subjects, with an emphasis on organic, joyful learning.
- Nerdy Book Club: A beautiful site with many interesting contributors- all sharing a love of children's literature.
- Home Grown Books's Resource Page: Our free online resource created specifically for parents of beginning readers. 6 videos detail steps in the beginning reading process such as using phonics cues, introducing the pattern, and completing a supported reading. Also includes FAQ's and suggestions of activities for little readers.
- Pinterest: This is a great tool for collecting activities, games, and at home lessons that your child will love. Search for themes specifically (such as "literacy" or "organic learning") or follow specific blogs or people that curate interesting pins.
Get Cozy and Read!
Read your own books, read to each other, share beautiful illustrations or a sentences that you love. We highly recommend checking out Mem Fox's Read Aloud Commandments for Parents. It really says it all!
Do you have other ways you create a love of reading at home? Share with us in the comments!