Friday, January 9, 2009

Reading Skills Are NOT Expensive!

Do you feel guilty that you haven't bought your child an expensive phonics kit or the latest reading system? Is your home missing the stack of $20 "educational" DVD's that you see at friends' homes? Are electronic books NOT on your shelves?

Well, don't fear. Teaching a child pre-reading, reading readiness, and beginning reading skills isn't about buying electronic gizmos that make noise, flash images, sing songs, or mis-pronounce some of the words.

Who am I to tell anyone anything about reading you ask? I'm a teacher (I've taught special education, science, and language arts at the middle school level) and I'm in the last semester of my post-master's graduate program to become a licensed reading specialist. Most importantly, I am mom to two four-year-old girls who are my test subjects for all the ideas I'll share here.

I'm operating under the premise that you want your child to enjoy reading and be ready for reading when he or she is developmentally ready. That being said, there are many free or low-cost activities you can do at home to help your child. Each week, I'll post one or two fun activities for moms and preschoolers to do together that will focus on an area of pre-reading skills. I'll try to incorporate video and photography to help.

Today's idea is a quickie since this is the first post. If your child's name starts with a simple sound (if not, see below) then identify your child's "special letter." Try to name the "special letters" for all the members of your family. Children already know the sounds that start the names, so now you are associating that sound with a particular letter.

By the way, it is not necessary to address the fact that some letters have more than one sound right away. So, if your child's name is Abby, then A makes the short a sound. If your child's name is Abel, than A makes the long a sound. Enough said. Explain more complex concepts as your child matures. If you have a George, then teach the soft G sound first, then move on to the idea that G can also make the hard sound (as in game) later.

*This can get tricky if you have a name that starts with a more advanced sound, for example, my girls have a friend named Chelsea. The sound "ch" is called a digraph by reading teachers. Chelsea's mom will need to address the idea that her name starts with two letters that make a special sound together.

I hope this will prove helpful, I welcome comments and suggestions for activities you're doing to help your child with reading readiness!


  1. Sarah, I like your website. It is so family friendly and you are very sincere in your writing. I have received your comment as well about my novel "You're Never Too Old For Space Camp". I also write a biweekly column for a local newspaper. I can put you on my list of friends who get this column, if you wish. Thanks again. Tom

  2. Sarah, send me your email and I will put you on the list. Thanks for the interest.Tom

  3. Hi Sarah,
    What a great blog! I love your idea about cutting out words that start with the special letter. I can picture you and the girls doing it, what a great idea I am going to have to try that one with, Ellie under close supervision of course.

    I know one of the things that helped Jacks pre reading (even pre phonics) was for me to point at the words as I would read a book. This seemed to help him understand that the story was being read rather than told to him. This is also when he began to recognize some simple words and letters (a, I etc.).

    On the technical side you may want to add some links to your blog, perhaps articles that you find interesting or more on phonics, just a thought?

  4. Thank you Tom,
    I'll get my address to you.

    I really like your suggestions, thanks for the comment! I'm going to work on incorporating more links over the next few weeks.

    Your observation on the value of pointing out the words is very true. You are absolutely right about how important it is to make sure that your child understands that you are reading words, not just telling a story from the pictures. Also, pointing helps kids develop a "concept of word" so that they realize that each word is made of a set of letters and has a space before and after it.

    Thanks again!

  5. this is a great idea. Sam is only 2 but we have been reading to him since he was months old and now he LOVES books. One thing parents need help with early on is choosing good books. A local store actually sponsored a short seminar about how to read to your child and how to choose books that were interesting to both you and your child (and no, the store didn't actually sell many of the books-they just consider themselves a resource center). Anyway, that seminar really helped get all of us enthused about reading to him, so now it's a part of his daily play, not just something you do at night (which I think is a weird message about reading-it's only something you do to go to sleep!). It's good to see the guidance about rhyming was good. I love the activities! We're just starting with scissors so that will be fun. Ellison