Ideally, you've been reading to your child since infancy. Now your preschooler is ready to be your reading partner. Let your child choose the books he wants you to read aloud (even if he picks the same book every time). Ask him why he selected that book and what he remembers about the story.
Point out the title and the illustration on the front cover. Read the title and the author out loud so your child can see what those words mean. Let your child turn the pages as you read. Follow along with the text, running your finger under the words as you read aloud. Learning how books and print work are important early steps toward learning to read.
As you read aloud to your child, ask questions about what is happening in the story. "What do you think will happen next?" Talk about the pictures in the book. Ask your child to point to the characters or objects that are mentioned in the story.
Recite nursery rhymes and read rhyming stories with your child. Pause at the end of a line and let your child fill in the rhyming word. This encourages your child to listen carefully, and helps him hear the different sounds at the beginning of words: "Jack and Jill went up the hill." Try changing the first sound of each word to a different sound or letter. For example, "Twinkle, twinkle little star" becomes "Pinkle, pinkle pittle par."
"Practice with easy readers," advises Julie Rebboah, president of Lightning Bug Learning Corporation. "These books should have short words (2-3 letters) for children to sound out and sight words (the, me, my, and)." Predictable, rhyming text is easy to master and gives you child a sense of accomplishment.
Look for ABC books that match your child's interests. You can find alphabetized books on a variety of subjects – animals, foods, machines. Encourage your child make his own alphabet book. Help him cut out pictures from magazines and paste them into a scrapbook, one picture for each letter in the alphabet.
Introduce letter sounds, or phonics. Play sound games at home or in the car. "I see something that starts with buh," (the b sound). As your child masters letter sounds, start blending them. "B-o-x, buh-aw-ks, box!" This builds a key skill in learning to read. You'll soon your child attempting to sound out anything that's written. Encourage and praise these efforts!
Rebboah suggests attaching index cards to everyday objects – door, bed, wall, lamp – and your home becomes a giant picture book. Your child will begin to learn words by sight. Enlist your child's help in creating the cards as he identifies things to label. Write the word in pencil and have your child trace over it in marker.
Take it to the next level by exposing your child to print in the real world. Point out street signs, store names, menus and anything with words.
Be a good role model. Let your child see you reading novels, magazines, recipe books, and newspapers. Allow him to curl up beside you with his own picture book. Modeling is a powerful tool.
When your child starts to read, and even once he becomes a good reader, let him choose his own reading material. Let him read cereal boxes, trading cards, catalogs and even books that are less challenging than he can manage. Take him to the library and give him free rein.
Teaching your child to read is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give him.
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