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How Do I Prepare My Child to Read?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Parents often ask how they can help at home to ensure their child is ready to read. The National Reading Panel identified 5 elements required for literary success: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Here are some fun activities in the first two categories that can help you help your child get ready to read!

The National Reading Panel recognizes 5 elements required for early literacy success.

1. Phonemic Awareness: recognizing sounds in spoken language

Read rhyming books and create tongue twisters is a great way to develop phonemic awareness early on. From Dr. Seuss to Mother Goose, rhymes help children notice that there are beginning, middle and ending sounds in words. “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” allow children to have fun creating silly phrases and sentences but they also unconsciously catch on quickly to the patterns without realizing they are identifying beginning, middle and ending sounds.

Playing “I Spy” type games also help children recognize sounds in words. For example, “I spy something that begins with the (fill in the sound of the letter here) sound.” If you have a dog at home, make sure to use the sound of the letter d (/d/ or ‘duh’) and not say the name of the letter d (‘dee’). The ability to hear sounds in words is essential to be ready for the next step in reading, which is phonics.

2. Phonics: relationship between written letters and the spoken sound

Now that a child recognizes that sounds have a purpose, he/she can slowly relate those sounds to written letters. In Montessori, we start to teach phonics with a material called the sandpaper letters. Each individual lowercase letter of the alphabet is presented to the child in a multi-sensory approach. Multi-sensory between 0-6 is important because the child has what Dr. Maria Montessori discovered was an “absorbent mind,” where the child is constantly using the 5 senses to absorb the world around him/her. From tracing the sandpaper to hearing and repeating the sound of the letter, the child will learn the phonetic sound of the letters.

Once the child can recognize that written letters represent sounds, the child can begin to put phonetic words together with a few fun activities. Using index cards, parents can write each letter that the child recognizes on an index card (one letter per index card) and play “Let’s Make a Word!” By sounding out each letter of a word at the child’s level, the child can then pick out the sounds and create a word. For example, a parent might say /c/ /a/ /t/ and the child would find the 3 corresponding index cards to place. A point can be given to each word created. If the child is ready, he/she can also sound out a word for the parent to create. Person who can make the most words wins!

“Let’s Make a Word!”

“Object Matching” is another fun way to practice phonics. If you have objects that represent phonetic words at home, put those in a box. Then on an index card, write the matching word. Invite your child to play “Object Matching” and then have your child sound out the word on the index card and match it to the object in the box! This can also be done by identifying phonetic words around the house and labeling those objects around the house.

“Object Matching”

Stay tuned for more tips on preparing your child to read. Happy pre-reading!

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