Preschool years: What shall I be doing?

Image result for teaching how to readBismillah,

“Please can someone tell me what they are doing with their 5 year old that would be in Year 1. My boy is literally refusing to do everything! He won’t read, he won’t watch phonics, he won’t write and he won’t even colour or draw! I’m at my wits end!” ( Chronicles of a homeschooling mother)

I often get this question from homeschooling mothers who decided to home-educate or simply wants to take an active role in their child’s early learning:

What shall I be doing with my child at home? I want to teach him how to read but I don’t know where to start?

My child is bilingual, we speak a different language at home. How can I teach him to read in English?

The answer is, with very young children (3-4 year old) just READ as many living books as you can so the child falls in love with books. All children naturally want to learn everything around them. As parents, we have to be able to provide that stimulating environment for them to nurture their innate drive to be able to read, explore and develop.

First, let’s all get it right. We want to teach our children to READ so they continue reading and learning for the rest of their lives. I often hear mothers with older children complaining how their child never picks up a book to read; that they are not interested in reading or books etc. No child should be taught how to read just for the sake of being able to read. Children should fall in love with books so they naturally yearn to read. And this process should never become a chore but rather it should be enjoyable. If you want your child to love READING, here are some of the things you should be doing from young age (and don’t worry if they are 5-6 and still not reading)

  • Read aloud to your child as much as you can. When you read, discuss the story and the pictures together, ask his opinion regarding certain events in the story. When older, ask him to narrate the story back to you in the right order
  • Regularly take them to the library
  • Create child’s personal library at home with age-relevant and interesting books
  • Make a “reading basket” at home with child’s favourite books and alternate the titles each week
  • Create a cosy reading corner where you leave the “reading basket” with books for your child to look through and explore the books, even before he can read
  • Invite your child to read common words on labels, packages and signs when out and about
  • Now we have many audio-books for children. We can play them during car-journeys or simply at bedtime and when parents are busy cooking or cleaning etc. Let them listen to books

Second, play these literacy games to prepare them for reading.

  • Identifying the beginning sound of words. You say the word (i.e Book), child should say the initial sound (i. e-B), Table- T, Apple-a. Make sure you teach them letter sounds (phonics) and not the names of letters. There are also plenty of printables and apps you can use to aid child’s learning. Personally I have never used an app to teach how to read and still very traditional when it comes using online educational apps or other gadgets. But my daughters used to enjoy reading the interactive books here when they were younger. Another excellent resource is OXFORD OWL where you can access hundreds of e-books for different ages. Each book has a follow-up activity where child’s reading or comprehension skills are tested.
  • Rhyming words- find as many rhyming words as possible together. A parent says a word and a child should find a rhyming word and each takes a turn. Bee-Tree, Cat-Hat. These later come useful if you teach word families (For example, AY- play, clay, tray etc)
  • For those who want to follow Montessori method, there are lots of free resources available online. I have used Pink, Green and Blue cards here as flashcards. You can easily adapt them to use as matching or listing literacy game.
  • For those who want to follow Doman method, make as many flashcards as possible using a large print as explained here and spend no more than 1-2 minutes a day. He believes in whole-word method, in other words sight-reading. A child is shown 15 words a day to start with and keep adding the most frequently used words from child’s daily life. Children will decode and start reading the whole words at some point rather than learning letter sounds and blending.

Preschool Academics

In a nutshell, the initial step to teaching how to read is to find good quality living books. Read aloud to your child as much as possible. When he starts showing an interest, play the literacy games above (use flashcards, pictures, jigsaw puzzles, alphabet wooden blocks for various games such as matching, listing, sorting etc).

When your child starts recognizing few words, do guided reading with him. Reading sessions should be short, around 10-15 minutes a day. Always sit your child in your lap, let him choose his favourite book and start reading aloud to him. Make sure you follow the print with your finger or invite your child to follow the print from left to right and top to bottom. Ask your child to read short words (CVCs) in the book; ask to find two the same words; read a word and ask him to identify the starting sound then ask him to find another word starting with the same letter sound. Children really enjoy to reread their favourite books at this level. They build up confidence that way and even if you think they have memorized the pages rather than reading- that is absolutely fine. Memory is essential for reading.

Always ask children to narrate the story back to help with composition in writing later on. Always focus on READING before WRITING. Once children can read a few words, build sentences and ask him to copy the words he can read.

As long as we are reading to our children, discussing the events/characters in the stories together and doing a little academics at times using various methods/resources above, all children are on the right path and will teach themselves how to read in no time inshaAllah.