Making it happen before children enter kindergarten will prepare them for a smoother transition into reading and writing. As parents, caregivers, or preschool teachers, we can all be the ones to use fun and easy ways to get them ready for decoding!
**Full disclaimer: I was inspired to write this post as I was reading the book Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do by Daniel T. Willingham, PhD.**
When mothers talk to their babies in that funny tone, it actually helps the baby learn language. By talking in a sing-song, high-pitched, slow tone of voice, babies have a better way to hear and learn language and words.
How many of you have sung some of these songs: "Down by the Bay" or "Apples and Bananas" or "The Name Game"? Whe we play word games with children, no matter where we are, they learn about language and how it works. Singing songs, making rhymes, and changing sounds in words will help children see how language works.
Simply reading aloud to a child is not enough to aid in learning to read. We have to go one step further. We need to ask them where words and letters are. How do we hold a book? This helps children learn the conventions of reading through books and print.
Letters in the Wild
Don't forget about the world around you! We need to show children that there is a reason for reading. Yes, we do enjoy it, but we must learn to read to function in our world. When we see signs, we tell them what they are, and they learn many places. My daughter knew at an early age what Kroger was by the sign and saw it on trucks as we went down the road. At 18 months, my son knew that the sign for Hardees meant a place to eat, and said "Eat some" every time he saw it.
When we are out in the world, we can explain to our children what we are reading and why it is necessary. This simple knowledge helps them understand that reading is important in our world.
But what about learning letter names?
We all find that students who come into kindergarten knowing their letter names tend to become better readers. BUT, do parents need to spend a lot of time teaching letter names? Not really. I didn't spend a lot of time teaching my son letter names, but I spent a lot of time building his background knowledge, which has enabled him to be a strong reader. As a parent, I wouldn't worry too much about it but let it happen as life goes on.
Preparing young children for decoding is a fun and easy task, one I enjoyed with both of my children. I was so excited when my son actually learned to read, and I know I will share that excitement with my daughter soon.
Just keep reading with your young child and show them that you love to read too.
The bottom line is to make it fun and simple! Enjoy this time and don't rush it!