As a parent, it’s always important to begin thinking about when you would like to teach your children to read. Some children who are already in pre-kindergarten programs or Head Start programs might already be starting to learn basics. For parents and guardians who don’t send their children to pre-kindergarten programs or who do not have access to such programs, there are plenty of ways to help introduce your child to the wonderful world of reading!
Helping a younger child learn about phonics isn’t as difficult as you might think. Young children have a tendency to pick up on things rather quickly, and when they do pick up on things, it tends to stay with them. By having a lot of patience and making the experience fun and enjoyable for both you and the child, you can really make a difference and help them begin learning the foundation that they will build on for the rest of their lives.
In this article I will share some useful tips and tricks to get you started with how to teach phonics to pre-kindergartners.
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Step #1 – Go Back to the Basics
Chances are, as an adult, you are already familiar with the basics that help you read, such as identifying letters and letter sounds. Since you’ve been reading for such a long time, you probably don’t even think about it anymore, but for young children this is a brand new concept. Sit yourself down and look at learning phonics and reading from a young child’s point of view. What would you want someone to explain to you if you didn’t know how to decide what sound a certain letter made? What ways would be helpful for identifying letters? Labeling objects? Flashcards? Audio recordings? Writing on a chalkboard? Consider all of these methods when deciding which ones you would like to use.
Step #2 – Read Together
Remember reading Goodnight Moon over and over before your baby would finally calm down and drift off to sleep? Well, books are wonderful tools for children of all ages, and even the youngest of children will benefit from being read to.
Repetition and rhyming words are often keys to keeping a child’s attention so try to select books like this. There are many books available that are of high quality, and if you aren’t too keen on purchasing a lot of books to see which your child responds best to, check out your local library first. Then sit down with your child and read some stories together. Eventually your child will begin to pick up on the rhymes and repetition and even start to help you read the story. While reading, be sure to point out letters and ask your child questions such as “What other words sound like cat?” Asking questions like this will prompt your child to think, and slowly begin to build up their knowledge of different letter sounds.
Step #3 – Practice Identifying Letters
Introducing your child to the wonderful world of reading begins with introducing them to the very basic elements of the words on those pages of the books you’ve been reading together – letters.
Buy a chalkboard, or even get creative. Many hardware stores sell paints that you can use on your wall to turn the surface into a chalkboard – allowing for hours of endless doodles and imaginative playtime. Grab the chalk and write some letters on the board – start with A. Talk to your child about the sounds the letter makes, draw some pictures of things that begin with A (alligator, apple), and even have him or her practice writing the letter and talking about what other things begin with that letter. Do a few letters each day to make sure your child’s interest is piqued.
Step #4 – Try Audio Recordings
Another fun way to teach your child about letters and their sounds is to set up audio recordings. If you are pressed for time, there are several already on the market, but it would be a lot more fun if you enlisted the help of your child to create your own.
You can create audio versions of your favorite books, as well. These can even be helpful to put on at bedtime, if your child isn’t yet ready for sleep after you’ve left the room.
Step #5 – Look into Pre-Kindergarten Programs
If your child is already enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program, it is a wonderful opportunity for your child to be learning a lot about phonics throughout their day. It’s also a great chance for you to discover new ways to help your child based on what he or she is doing in the classroom. Your child’s teacher will most likely be more than happy to help you come up with some ideas to help your child at home, and probably even has some book and activity recommendations.
Alternatives to Pre-Kindergarten Programs
If your child isn’t currently enrolled in a pre-kindergarten or Head Start program, no need to worry. If it’s something you believe would be helpful for your child, many public elementary schools offer pre-kindergarten classes for free. The first step would be getting in touch with the school. If you don’t want to place your child in a pre-kindergarten class, or none are offered near you, there are some alternatives. These include online programs (such as RedCatReading.com) you can purchase that will help your child learn about letters.
Step #6 – Practice!
What’s the best way to keep up with learning and remembering what you’ve learned? By practicing! Work at phonics skills everyday – make up flashcards for when you aren’t home, use that chalkboard or worksheets that you have purchased or made, and even come up with fun activities! Take your child to the grocery store and ask them to find a food item that begins with each letter of the alphabet. Go on a walk in your neighborhood and find things that rhyme with certain words. Pick up some books on a rainy day and read together.
No matter what you choose to do, helping your child learn to read is a rewarding experience. Teaching children phonetic skills while they are very young will give them a big head start when they do go to school and begin their learning in a classroom setting. Not only are you providing them with the foundation that they will continue building throughout their lives, but you are spending extra time with them, and making memories that will be cherished for years to come.