The ability to read will open doors in a child’s future for both constructive and pleasurable activities. Most parents are eager to raise readers and it is important to understand the learning stages for pre-reading development. Reading involves much more than just phonics. Let’s take a look at the skills that help a child develop reading readiness.
Motor skills include both gross motor and fine motor. Gross motor skills involve the trunk of the body, arms and legs. Fine motor skills involve the hands and fingers. Obviously at some point a child will have to sit reasonably still to learn to read but keep in mind that to build reading readiness, it is important for kids to explore and experience the world with their whole body. Toddlers and preschoolers will also be more likely to be willing to sit for reading books if they’ve enjoyed plenty of gross motor activity first. Fine motor skills will be used to hold books appropriately and turn the pages.
At “Raising Readers” parenting seminars that I have hosted, one common question I get over and over is, “What if my child doesn’t want to sit or stay seated while I read?”
My answer: Don’t push it. That doesn’t mean stop reading. It just means be flexible about their movement while you are reading. At this point we want young children to love books, not to see them as a negative activity that requires them to sit still when they are not ready.
My advice to parents is to sit their and keep reading that book with great expression as if it is the most exciting book in the world and that it is worthy regardless of their attention. You’ll be surprised how often toddlers will finally get curious and come over to see just what it is you are so excited about. I’ve heard back from countless parents that this tip really works and I’ve seen it work in my own home, preschool classrooms and Sunday school classes.
Spatial Relationship Skills:
Many parents will ask, What in the world are spatial relationship skills? It’s a good question. When we are learning to decipher letters, words and sentences, we are distinguishing the relationships and connections between lines, combination of letters, spaces and so on.
How can you help your young child develop spatial relationship skills? Activities such as puzzles, stacking cups and blocks target these skills. Any toy or activity that addresses how things fit together will build spatial relationship skills. These fun playtime activities are actually building the skill needed to get ready for reading. These activities also build the fine motor skills needed to hold books and turn pages. They are so crucial for pre-reading skills in many ways.
To build pre-reading skills, it is important that your young child start to make a connection that letters have sounds and that words have meaning. This doesn’t mean that you should push letter recognition or phonics before a child is ready but rather that you point out words whenever you experience them together whether is it a sign for a restroom or a word in a book. For letters, always make it personal for beginners, as in “Yes, this is Alexis’s goodie bag. It has an A for Alexis.” Young children are naturally very egocentric, so you can take advantage of this. They will be interested in the first letter of their own favorites whether it’s Dora, Daddy, blankie or bananas.
Obviously social skills encompass a large array of skills from playing with friends to learning manners. Here I’d like you to consider how young children like to imitate others in their play. Whether it’s pretending to make pancakes like Daddy in their kitchen center or singing to their baby doll like Grandma does, young children like to imitate. That’s why it is important for young children to live in a print rich world and see lots of people reading. Whether you’re reading magazines, newspapers, novels or cookbooks, it will help young children make a connection that reading is important.
Language skills are key for reading readiness. Remember this important sequence in language development. If kids haven’t heard it, they won’t say it. If they can’t say it, they won’t read it and if they can’t read it, they won’t write it. This is why “be quiet” classrooms or homes are stunting for pre-reading skills.
Talk away with your toddler and preschooler. Let them know every morning what day of the week it is. Announce every new month. Count the stairs as you climb them and let them know when ever you’re turning left or right when you’re driving.
Encourage pretend play whether it’s dress up or puppets as these activities encourage language use.
Build vocabulary as your child masters common words. For example, once your child has mastered “dog,” start saying “Dalmatian” or “Boxer.” Once your child has mastered “flower,” start saying “Iris” or “Tulip.” Children will be so much more likely to decode or even yes, guess, words that they are familiar with.
Understanding the learning stages for pre-reading development including motor skills, spatial relationship skills, cognitive skills, social skills and language skills will help you to raise a successful reader. Visit your library often and try out a variety of books to learn what most appeals to your young child but don’t forget that nursery rhymes and singing songs are also appealing ways to help to build language and pre-reading skills too.