Pre-Reading Skills – why they’re important and how to introduce pre-reading to your child

Posted on Friday, August 18th, 2017 at 3:15 pm Under Category Child Education

Pre-Reading Skills

A life without literacy is hard indeed, not to mention being bereft of the joy of reading. Does that mean, though, that you should be drilling the alphabet into your two-year-old? Absolutely not! How about aiming to have your three-year-old recite Voltaire to their friends at private daycare in Montreal? Nope.

To nurture a skilled reader who loves books, it’s important to introduce pre-reading in an engaging and fun way, with very little pressure. Research shows that people who read regularly tend to have greater empathy, better job prospects and health outcomes, and greater overall happiness in life – all things we want for our children!

When Should Children Learn to Read?

Before five or six, most children aren’t ready for a formal approach to learning to read. Pushing them too hard too young can backfire, and may delay reading and prevent children from finding enjoyment in reading later in life. Or, you may end up with a child who can sound out words but has no idea what they represent.

This isn’t to say that you should rest on your laurels until your child’s sixth birthday, or hand over responsibility for this essential skill to your child’s private daycare. There are many things you can do at home, right from day one, to foster your child’s literacy and a love of reading.

Tiny babies love being read to, and establishing a routine of books at bedtime can help them form strong attachments while supporting emotional and cognitive development and language skills. The more exposure little ones get to books while young, the more likely they are to become voracious and skilled readers later.

What to Read with Children

Baby books are easily identifiable, but choosing appropriate books for older children can be confusing. This is where a good children’s librarian and/or with a fantastic children’s book store clerk are worth their weight in gold. These knowledgeable folks can help you navigate age-appropriate choices, and help little ones see that the library and book store are exciting, magical places of discovery. The experienced staff at your child’s private daycare in Montreal can also offer suggestions if you’re struggling to pick out books.

Fabric books and waterproof books are great for babies – if it’s safe (and not a library book!), letting your child pull at, chew on, and otherwise explore a book is encouraged! Before twelve months of age, rhyme books, lullabies, picture books, and touch-and-feel books are excellent choices.

From eighteen months, introduce more interactive books and complex stories. Keep some old favourites in rotation, though, as repetition helps with language development and memory, and provides comfort in routine. If your child has a favourite book, considering sending this with them to their private pre-school as a comfort object.

How to Read with Children

We all know that children love it when we ‘do the voices’, but there are other ways to encourage a love of books. Help grow your child’s vocabulary by pointing at pictures in simple books and asking, “where is the cat/apple/river/bird/baby?” As they get a little older, ask “What is the horse is eating?”, “Does the man look happy or sad?”, “What do you think the dog might do next?”, and “Why do you think the dragon did that?” This helps children begin to make predictions, name emotions, and develop their theory of mind.

When your child turns two, start to talk about books even when you’re not reading them. Bring the characters from favourite books into everyday life by asking “what would the Gruffalo do?” or “Is this house the same colour as the one in the story we read this morning?” When you finish reading a book, ask your child to summarize what just happened. Or, before starting, ask your child to predict what might happen in a book based on the cover.

From three onwards, begin to name different types of books. Establish shelves or boxes dedicated to non-fiction, rhyming books, realistic fiction, and fantastical fiction (i.e. with talking dogs and unicorns, etc.). Differentiating books in this way helps develop memory and larger reading concepts, and gives toddlers an opportunity to feel a sense of control by choosing the type of book they want to read.

Introducing Letters

So far, we’ve focused on the importance of reading with children, but what about letter recognition and sounding out? This is where word families come in, and where the arts and crafts supplies can come out.

Alphabet fridge magnets are a fun way to introduce letters early. When safe to do so, make large letter fridge magnets accessible for your toddler. Help them sound out letters first and, later, help them create and sound out simple words.

At about eighteen months to two years old, introduce your child to the letters in their name. You could hang large wooden letters above their bed or on their bedroom door. If they’re going to daycare, let them watch you and then help write out the first letter of their name on labels for their water bottle and lunch box.

Aim to introduce two new letters a week until your child knows the letters in their name, then move on to the names of key people in their life. Use natural learning opportunities by pointing out your child’s initial on store signs and billboards, then get them to do the same as they recognize more letters. When you’re at the grocery store, ask if they can see an ‘o for organic’, or an ‘f for freezer’.

Introducing Word Families

Rhyme books are great for introducing word families, i.e. groups of words like mop, cop, hop, top, or cat, bat, mat that have the same rime (-op or -at) but a different onset. Recognizing these word families gives children an advantage later when they start more formal reading lessons.

Help your child learn to track word families by running your finger under the text as you read. For larger letters, trace them with your finger as you sound them out. Rhyming books like Fox in Sox are fantastic for teaching pattern recognition.

Once you’ve introduced the idea of word families through rhyme books, take things off the page. Make up rhymes and explore sounds while walking or on transit, and get creative: Write out a rime (e.g. -op or -at) on a large sheet of paper, then write consonants on separate sheets of paper. Your child can then move these around to build words, or they could throw a bean bag onto a letter as they sound it out and sound out the word. Emergent readers are also great for this and can be downloaded free online as printable sheets.

While they’re learning their letters, with reinforcement at their private daycare, continue your regular reading routine with books to help them feel calm at nap time and bedtime. If your child is potty-training, pick out potty-time books and read them together. Books that make your child giggle also make it easier for them to relax and go on the potty – it’s a win-win!

Other top tips for nurturing an avid reader include modelling the behaviour yourself. Your child should be used to seeing you and other adults reading books, cookbooks, newspapers, and so forth. And, to help your child see books as fun and social, tell them about an exciting book you’re reading, and talk to friends and family about books while your child is in earshot.

Whatever else, keep things light and enjoyable, use learning opportunities as they arise, and have fun!

How Your Child’s Private Daycare in Montreal Can Help Foster Literacy

Raising a kind, contented, capable child can feel like a struggle sometimes, so it’s smart to use all the resources you have around you. Ideally, a private pre-school will help reinforce pre-reading skills through a comprehensive curriculum that maximizes preparation for formal schooling. And, choosing a high quality private daycare in Montreal could mean that your child discovers a love of reading from an early age.

If you have any questions about pre-reading strategies or concepts, or questions about services at The Learning Tree, we invite you to contact us today. It will be our pleasure to answer your questions.


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