One of the things that surprises many parents is that Kindergarteners are now expected to read. And by “read”, I mean by the end of the school year, they should at least be able to read a level D guided reading book (A what?! What does that mean?) by the end of the year. Coming into Kindergarten, kids are much better primed for reading if they recognize some of the Kindergarten Dolch words and can read a predictable beginner reader using picture clues (“I see cat.” “I see a dog.” “I see a frog.” yada yada yada).
The problem with the push toward earlier reading is that it assumes one of two things: (1) Parents have innate knowledge of how to teach their child to read or (2) Children are attending highly academic preschools. Both of these assumptions are false for a myriad of reasons.
As a professor of literacy at a local state college, I have spent thousands of hours teaching future and current teachers how to teach reading to young children. There is a method to the madness, and today I will share with you a bit of what I have taught my students – and part of the process I currently use with my 4 year old as he is developing his reading skills at home.
WHAT BOOKS TO USE
Before you do much else, you need to get the right kind of books to teach your child to read. Walking into a bookstore can be misleading because there are all types of books with all types of labels about what “level” they are and none of them are consistent (publishers wouldn’t want you jumping between brands, right?).
I’d suggest sticking with traditional leveled readers because it is much easier to determine when your child needs to move to the next level. While you can buy these in packs from places like Scholastic and Lakeshore, they can be expensive! So, I will share with you a teacher secret…buy the teacher reproducible book. It is cheap, each book contains many mini-leveled readers, kids can write in the books, and you can either rip them right out of the book or make copies so that you can use them again. Here is a link to the first few you would use to help your child learn to read:
Yep, you read that right. 75 books in the first 3 levels you will need for under $20. Those could cost you a hundred dollars to buy otherwise.
The same books are available in “published” form here:
WHAT TO DO WITH THE BOOKS
In other words, how do you use these books to help your child become a reader?
The following routine can take place over several nights. Do not “rush” reading. At first it may be slow, but as your child develops more skills and confidence, he/she will pick up new words at a faster rate. The most important thing is to make this a positive experience – if you push reading as a chore, your child might grow to dread reading. Instead, you want to help foster the natural independence your child is craving at this developmental stage in his/her life. Hopefully your child will begin to take pride that he/she can read a book to you!
1. Choose one of the leveled readers. Start with the Level A books at first to build confidence.
2. Examine the cover. Read the title. Ask your child to make a prediction about what they think the book might be about.
3. Take a picture walk through the book. Using the pattern of the book (e.g., “I can…”, “I see…”), talk through the book (like an informal “reading” of the book). Stop to ask your child to talk about what they see, what they think the book will be about, or what might happen next.
4. Return to the first page. Prompt your child with the beginning pattern of the text (e.g., “I like to…”) and have them fill in the rest of the sentence by using picture clues. If your child struggles to use the picture clue, point to phonics clues in the word – “This word begins with an S. What sound does “S” make?” “What word that starts with /s/ could this picture be showing?”
5. After reading the book, stop and have your child answer some basic comprehension questions (e.g., “What was the girl’s problem in this book?” or “What are three things the boy did at school?”)
6. Return to the beginning of the book. Have your child reread the text, this time pointing to each individual word as they read.
7. Before the next reread of this book, do a “search” with your child for the sight word that is the focus of this particular book. So if the pattern repeats “this”, help your child identify this word outside the context of the text, talk about how the word is used or what it means, and then go through the book with a highlighter having them “highlight” the sight word each time they see it in the text.
8. Have your child reread the text pointing to each word as they read, and create a flashcard for their newest sight word to keep for later, out-of-context practice. I like to keep our flashcards in an old plastic recipe box.
9. Add your child’s newly “mastered” book to their collection of books they can read on their own. I have my children decorate shoeboxes to keep all of their leveled books in.
10. Have your child draw and use invented spelling to write about the book they have read. They can “write” about what they think will happen next, something else that might have happened in the text, or their favorite part of the book. After they draw/write, take a dictation of their idea and write it onto their paper.
HAPPY READING! Feel free to ask any questions!