Thoughtful Parenting: Ready to read | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Ready to read

Kim Schulz/For the Steamboat Today

A child cuddles with a parent while listening to the words and seeing the images in a storybook. This activity is one of the most important to introduce a child to the world of reading. It can begin as soon as your child is born. Most avid readers have fond memories of reading with their caregivers when they were young.

Before children enter kindergarten, they are developing the skills to be ready to learn to read. Here are several simple activities to do with young children to build the foundation for reading.

■ Get familiar with letter shapes and names. Begin with the letters in your child's name; these have true personal importance. Play letter identification games while around town or in the house, looking for certain letters on signs and in other printed material. Read alphabet books that include capital and lowercase letters. Play with magnetic letters on the refrigerator.

■ Have fun with letter sounds. Alphabet books are also a great resource to listen to beginning letter sounds, and they include pictures of words that begin with the letter and sound. While young children do not learn best from just sitting in front of a screen, some time spent together playing letter games online, like on http://www.starfall.com, can be beneficial and engaging. Once your child can identify beginning sounds easily, then work on recognizing the ending sounds.

■ Include rhyme time. Introduce rhyming with books, poetry and nursery rhymes. Once your child understands the concept of rhyming, you can make rhyming chains by coming up with real and nonsense words that rhyme. This is easy to integrate and can help pass the time in a meaningful way while in the car, waiting in line or making dinner.

■ Expand their vocabulary. Vocabulary in stories is more specific than in our everyday conversations. Stop to talk about new words in a book and describe the pictures. It helps children to understand the words when they are used in context. Vocabulary also is built through experiences. Talk about your surroundings and help your child connect new words to what they already know. For example, when out in the snow, talk about how the snow is cold but also how it is sparkly, frigid or crumbly.

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■ Make reading time interactive and fun. Talk about the story while reading. Help your child relate to the characters, make predictions about what will happen next or describe why one part is his or her favorite. When reading with babies and toddlers, have them point to the pictures while counting, locating the red objects or finding the animal that says “moo.” Reading time should be relaxing and enjoyable to instill the joy of reading.

Most importantly, make time for reading with your child each day. During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, reading can provide you both with some calming time to spend together. Giving children the tools to be ready to learn how to read is one of the best gifts you can give them.

Kim Schulz is a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council, First Impressions of Routt County, and the founder of Key to Learning, a tutoring service helping students reach their greatest potential. Check out her website at http://www.keytolearningsteamboat.com.