What can you do with your three and four-year-old?
In the pre-school years, your child is a learning machine. Usually, the most effective reading program is simply created by example – finding ways to show your child that reading is fun. Show them that you enjoy reading. Let them see you read, comment aloud about interesting facts you uncover; show the value of reading directions, recipes, how-to materials; share the pleasure of relaxing with a magazine or novel; be expressive. Remember that children at this age love to imitate their parents. Give them lots to imitate.
This is also an excellent age for your child to learn to know more about books, to learn to enjoy and love books, and to learn about language.
This is the best time to introduce and emphasize the very important message that a story is about something, that it has meaning. Help your child discover that we find meaning by reading words. This is the basic groundwork for a lasting understanding – that your child should expect reading to make sense. When you pick up a book or magazine for yourself you might ponder aloud, “I wonder what this story is going to be about?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” Show them you are curious, too.
Check out the following:
- Children at this age enjoy stories about the real world. This is the time when your child’s social development blossoms. Notice how intrigued a child is by changes in nature. At this age, toddlers like humor and wordplay and storytelling becomes more and more important. They also begin to identify with specific storybook characters that have adventures. Start your child on books that are part of a series. Examples might be “Winnie The Pooh” or “Franklin”.
- Follow your child’s interests so that you can get books, poems, or magazine articles on those subjects. Take them to the library or bookstore and let them choose books. This way, they will develop a love for reading.
- When you read a poem or verse, stop before you reach the end and let your child provide the rhyming word, or read a story leaving out some keywords and let your child fill in the blanks
- Play reading games. You read a page and then have your child read a page (even if he or she makes up the words) Play games wherever you are. Games, like: I spy with my little something that starts with the letter ‘S’ or the color ‘red’.
- Make up interesting labels to put on your child’s possessions.
- When you are going to be away from home on a quick errand write a message that can be read to your child while you are away.
- Read road signs. Get tapes recordings of books. Find ways to build links between television and books.
Suggestion: Start a memory box. This will boost the Magic of Storytelling. Create dividers in a box to hold childhood treasures that your child collects when you go for a walk in the park, the woods, or along a beach. The collection might consist of acorns, leaves, small stones, bird feathers, seashells, driftwood, coins and gifts or pictures that they like.
Suggestion: Create an adventure collection. If your child has a favorite book you can help him or her to start a collection of objects that relate to this book.
Label the objects in these collections to involve reading and writing.
What can you do with your child after age five
What about the child who does learn to read on his own? Should you stop reading when a child enters school? Never! One of the predictors of scholastic success is the time parents spend reading to and with their children. This is a practice that should continue throughout the child’s school years. The development of phonemic awareness has just started, so don’t stop this process. There is a special bonding that comes with sharing a story together, regardless of the age.
- When your child asks a question about a book or character it is important to take the time to answer it.
- Don’t force your child to talk about or listen to a story if she wants to do something else. While you read, your child can draw or play quietly.
- Encourage writing along with reading. Help your child write a letter to a favorite author or character. Maybe your child can pretend to be one storybook character writing to another. For example, what would Winnie the Pooh say to Snow White? Encourage your child to keep a journal or diary. Make greeting cards. Write thank-you letters. Work on word puzzles, play Scrabble.
- Find movies based on books. Borrow books or movies from the library or subscribe to magazines that interest older children.
Suggestion: Make a time capsule. This is a useful task for you, the parent, or the early childhood teacher. Older children enjoy making a time capsule that tells important things about their family. The can collect small objects- photographs, recipes or favorite foods, letters from special people, an article of clothing they have outgrown, a school report or drawing – and place these into a shoebox. Let your child write or help write a family story.
Seal the box for safekeeping to be cherished and opened at a time many years into the future. Keep in mind that you, the parents, are a child’s first teachers!