Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: Concepts of Print

Nine Months Old and Learning to Read!

Ok, I’m sure you don’t believe me, but it’s true…just let me explain.

Our nine month old is learning to read already. She can’t read yet, and she probably won’t be able to read for years, but she’s already learning how. She’s learning because we started building her reading foundation months ago by doing a few simple things. At our house, we call it “reading with a purpose.”

Like most kids, Chick Pea has a favorite book. For her, that book is Marcos Counts. We read this book to her at least six or seven times a day. At times it’s the only way I can get her to calm down while Mom cooks or writes. We’re very fortunate that she shows an interest and loves everything about books, whether it’s listening to us read, looking at the pictures, or eating them. But every time we read this book with her, we read with purpose. Just a few simple things make all the difference (we hope) in helping her catch on to the idea of reading long before she has the ability to really read. Here are a few techniques you can use with babies and toddlers:

Repeated Readings
If you’re like us, you don’t have much of a choice in this one. Small children love repetition and pretty much force you to read the same book over and over. But these repeated readings help them build vocabulary and fluency early on.

Tracking the words in the book
Even though you’ve memorized the text from repeated readings, tracking the words with your finger as you go along helps them make the connection that the scribbles you are pointing at with your finger (text) have some meaning and are related to what you are saying. Resist the urge to recite the words and turn the pages on queue.

Let your child turn the pages
With repeated readings, you child will learn pretty quickly when the page needs to be turned, and they’ll be anxious to do it to get to next part of the story. Along with tracking, which will be paused while waiting for the page to turn, kids quickly figure out that the story needs the next page to continue. In our case, she’s figured out that pages need to be turned, but her timing’s a little off. That’s ok too–it’s good practice.

Look at the book while you read
Again, this may be tough to remember to do because you’ll have the story memorized pretty quickly, but directing your attention to the pages and text gives your child a visual cue that the information is coming from the book, not from you. You can expand this using tracking by pointing at the pictures in the book and talking about them. For instance, Marcos Counts objects, but the book never mentions what those objects are in the text. We always point out what Marcos is counting on each page (ducks, cars, crayons, etc.) to help her learn to identify these objects.

This is the main purpose of our reading sessions. The single most important thing you can do to instill a love of reading in your child is to make it fun. Don’t force a reading time on your small child, and don’t chase them around insisting that they listen to the story. Even though it’s her absolute favorite book, Chick Pea often crawls away 3 pages in to Marcos Counts to go inspect a wooden block or chase a cat out of the room, and that’s ok. I usually just sit quietly and read silently to myself to find out what happens at the end of the story. 🙂

Let’s Read It This Way – Lesson Idea #15

Big books work well for this, but you can use any book with large print. Try to use a book that you’ve already read with your child and one that has a good amount of dialog in it.

  1. Tell your child that you’ll be reading xyz book, but that you’ll be hunting for different things this time. Write, or show them what an exclamation mark (!) and question mark (?) look like.
  2. Tell them that you’ll be hunting for these in the book and that they should let you know when they see one because you’re going to have to read it differently.
  3. Begin reading the book (maybe with less expression than you normally do) until your child lets you know that they’ve spotted one of the marks. Say “Oh, thanks – that’s an (!), that mark means that we have to read this sentence with a lot of expression. Listen to me first and then we’ll try it together.”
  4. Reread the sentence modeling good expression and then have them read it (or repeat after you if they can’t read yet) with you. Try to have them imitate you as much as possible so that they get into the habit of learning to change their voice when they see these marks.
  5. Do the same with question marks – Teach them that our voices sound different when we ask questions and that they should sound like that when we read questions too.
  • This is one of those easy activities that you can do to lay a strong foundation for good reading habits and fluency. It can be done whether your child can read or not because all they have to do is practice sounding like you (a good reader)!
  • Change this up for older kids (2nd grade and up) that need help with expression by skipping the “hunt” and just calling their attention to the marks when they read. Having them listen to you, reread it with you, and then again by themselves will give them the practice they need to improve their fluency.

Show Me How – Lesson Idea #14

You’ll need a book that’s on the bigger side of normal and your “dunce cap” on for this one.

  1. Tell your child that you’re getting ready to read a book and get into a position where he/she can clearly see the book. Hold the book upside down and announce that you’re ready to begin. Hopefully your child will look at you funny and tell you that’s not how you hold a book.
  2. You (in total disbelief) ask him/ her “Why not?” – they give you an answer and you say “Oh, ok, I got it”. Then you fix it by holding the book sideways and telling them that now you’re ready. They’ll laugh and point at you and tell you you’re doing it all wrong!
  3. Do this a couple of times in different ways until you “give up” and say “Ok, show me how to read this book the right way”. See if you can get them to explain to you why it should be read that way. You’re looking for them to tell you things like: the front cover needs to be right side up, the title should be on top, we can’t read upside down, you need to open the book up this way, we need to turn the pages in this direction, the pictures can’t be upside down, the words can’t be upside down, etc. If you need to, point these things out to your child.
  • This simple pretend play can be very beneficial in helping your child understand the concepts of print. Kids love to be right and they’ll have fun telling you that you’re wrong! Don’t we all?

Short or Long? – Lesson Idea #12

  1. Choose some short words (one syllable) and long words(multi syllable) that show up in books, poems, or songs that your child is familiar with.
  2. As you read each word, ask your child if it is a short word or long word. Keep track of what they say.
  3. Then write each word and ask them again. Show them the differences between the short ones and long ones. Talk about how the ones that sound longer usually look longer too because they have more sounds to write. Check if they were right on their guesses.
  • This activity helps kids with early concepts of print as well as developing their oral language skills. You’ll be surprised by how good they become at this and how it will help them in the future when working with words!

Word Switch – Lesson Idea #3

You’ll need a pocket chart and some word cards (you can make them with sentence strips) for this activity.

  1. Make or use some words cards to make up a few sentences from a book, rhyme, or song that your child is familiar with. Make sure to include capitals and punctuations.
  2. Read the sentences aloud to your child (or together if they can read with you). Then mix up the words in each sentence and read them aloud again.
  3. Your child will most likely start giggling and tell you there’s something wrong. Act surprise and like you don’t know what’s wrong. When they convince you that there’s a problem, ask your child to help you make the sentences right again. They can use the capital letter and the punctuation mark as hints.
  • You can skip the materials if you don’t have them and use a white board instead. Although kids really enjoy holding and manipulating the word cards – especially if they can’t write yet. The purpose here is to show your child that each word has meaning and that they work together to make sentences. If you move one or all of them around, it will affect how the sentence makes sense.

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