In my current job I perform hearing tests on a children 2 ½ to 6 years old. Most of them do not know how to read yet. After I’ve completed the test they need to sit and wait for several minutes while I record and document the results. I have a few books that I offer to the child to look at while they wait (I’m amazed that the Scooby Doo book is a favorite of 95% of the children I screen! I watched that cartoon almost 50 years ago and it’s still around and popular today- amazing). It’s really interesting to me to see how differently the children look at the books.
There are the ones who flip through through all three books in 12 seconds then say, “I’m done”.
There are the kids who sit quietly and look at each page carefully.
Some kids turn down the books because, they say, “I don’t know how to read yet”.
Others look at the pictures and make up elaborated stories (pretending they are reading) while they look at the pictures, not intimidated by the fact that someone is listening to what they are saying.
And there is the group who look at each page and ask lots of questions about what’s is happening in every picture (this group is difficult for me because I have to keep saying, “I need to write so I can’t talk to you while you look at the book”).
These observations have become so interesting to me and caused me to wonder, “Why do children view and use books so differently”?
The group of kids who have difficulty separating from their parent will have their mom or dad come into the testing room with them. While they wait for the results I hear how their parent interacts with their child about the books. I’ve found there is such a big difference in the ways the parents talk with their child about the books while they wait. I’ve come to think that the way a child perceives books is, in a large part, how they have learned from their parent.
Some parents just hand the books to the kids and tell them to look at them.
Other parents lift their child onto their lap and read every word that is on the page to them.
Other parents have the child look through the book and they ask them questions that have to do with the illustrations on the pages.
Now this may all seem like small stuff to you. However, as I’ve seen hundreds of children of similar age and such a wide variety of behaviors I’ve realized that there is a vast difference in a pre-school age child’s habits and the abilities in the area of reading readiness. Another test we administer is a reading readiness screening which evaluates a child’s level of knowledge in the area of reading. Things that may seem overly simple to an adult are important stepping-stones to a child becoming a successful future reader. Things such as:
We read from left to right
Recognizing the front from back of a book
Letter recognition and sounds
Distinguishing between letters and numbers
How to rhyme
How to segment words (such as “mmm” and “oon” together say “moon”)
Understanding that the picture in a book and the words go together
Recognizing that words are separated by spaces
All these are important building blocks to reading and can easily be taught to a young child even by a novice parent.
Now you may be asking yourself what you could do to help your child prepare to be a great reader. There are lots of ways to teach your young child about books and reading to prepare them to read down the road.
Read to your child every day.
Let your children see you read.
Make reading fun or make it a reward
Talk about what’s happening in a book as you look at it together
Go to the library regularly
As you read to your child:
- Ask questions about what they see in the book,
- Ask what they think might happens next
- Ask what they would do if the same thing happened to them.
Reading is a foundational skill for children to learn and a key to future success. It is the basis of so many other skills such math word problems, being able to understand written instructions or directions and reading signs and maps.
A few small changes now can make a huge difference in your child’s reading success. Help open a whole new world to your kids by setting them up to be strong, successful readers and learners.