Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Teaching Toddlers to Read
Children develop much of their capacity to read in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90% of their adult weight. Talking, singing and reading to your child develops and strengthens links between their brain cells which enable them to understand and develop language skills. Therefore, you should read to your toddler as often as possible. Teach him the alphabet, letter sounds, and some simple sight words. Then teach him to blend sounds together to make words. Because a toddler has a short attention span, you need to keep the practice sessions very short and full of fun.
Reading aloud to your child helps your child to learn the correct way to read. By hearing you read the words on the page and sound them out, he learns that letters make words, and words make sentences, and sentences are how we communicate with each other. Communication is very important in how a person relates to the rest of the world. Reading aloud to your child encourages interpersonal communication, which is vital to a child's development.
There are many activities that will make reading fun, and help to keep the toddler engaged in reading.
1. Use musical instruments to create suspense, or silliness. This can bring a story to life as well as keep each child engaged. You can even have them make simple shakers with beans or rice inside a can. They can use it at different times. For example: shake the shaker when you hear the word ______.
2. Have the children act out what you read. If the character walks to the store, they should be able to walk in place as they reach a door and open it and grab some groceries. This should be fun and can help on those days it's raining out and their energy levels are high.
3. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story. If your reading “Miss Spider’s Tea Party,” you might have a rubber spider, silk butterflies, a tea cup, and a handkerchief to wipe the spider’s tears away.
4. Ask your child questions about the story. Reading comprehension is one of the hardest things to teach a child if it doesn't come naturally to him. In order to comprehend something, you must be paying attention to it. Help your child to develop his ability to comprehend stories by asking him questions either about what he thinks is about to happen or what has already happened. This develops critical thinking, which helps later in life in making major decisions.
5. Do a fun activity after you finish the book that relates to the book in some way. For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. If you read a book about lions or the circus, you can have your child jump through a hoop like a lion at the circus. This activity may be done indoors or outdoors. Add words of encouragement such as, "Come my beautiful lion!" Continue raising the hoop, then alternate between high and low.
Reading to your child on a regular basis will give him an appreciation and respect for reading. If reading is important to you, it will become important to your child. A bookcase full of a variety of great books should be available. The "Dr. Seuss" and "Dick and Jane" books are wonderful, because they are full of repetition. This will enable your child to learn sight words such as: it, at, on, in, the, etc. Learning sight words will help keep the frustration level down when they start to read books.
Here’s a fun sight word game called, “Stinky Cheese.” Cut triangles out of yellow construction paper. On 20 triangles write sight words that you want to practice. On 5 triangles write “stinky cheese.” Put the triangles in a sack and shake them up. The toddler pulls out a triangle. The child reads the sight word on his cheese. If he chooses “stinky cheese,” he holds his nose and says, “Stinky cheese!” in a silly voice.
Most toddlers are physically active and love to move. Take advantage of this natural trait by moving to short rhymes that introduce letter sounds. An A-Z list of Action Animal Phonics Rhymes that promote lots of movement can be found on this blog in the blog archive. Introduce a new sound each week and have fun.
Toddlers learn quickly with hands on activities. Make clay out of flour, salt, and warm water. Form a large A, a, and apple out of the clay. After the letters and apple dry have fun painting them and practice the letter sounds by singing silly songs. Take turns thinking of a word that begins with that letter/ sound. For example: say "A is for a a a a aaaaligator." You’ll be surprised what words the toddler will come up with. Your toddler will be proud of the letters he makes and will want to show them to everyone.
Another great way to teach a toddler letter sounds is to make a personalized book. Take a photo of the toddler with food that starts with each letter and paste it on top of an 8”-11” piece of paper. Under each picture with large letters write, Aa – Brian eats an apple, Bb- Brian eats a banana, Cc- Brian eats a carrot, etc. He will certainly learn his name, learn the letter sounds, and enjoy seeing himself in his phonics book.
Once your toddler has learned the letter sounds, it's time to start blending them together to make words. Here, too, fun must be a vital ingredient. Plain Unifix cubes are a wonderful manipulative for the development of small motor movements in toddlers. By gluing uppercase and lowercase letters to each cube and cover with clear nail polish for durability you can use them to teach reading skills as well. Make several sets of each. Make sets of opposite words, rhyming words, and sight words.
1. These are great for practicing the alphabet. You can link them together using all uppercase, all lowercase or uppercase A-lowercase a.
2. Put each child’s name in a zip lock bag for name practice.
3. You can build words with them.
4. They are great for word families too. Have (a-t) linked together and ask what letter can go in front to make a word.
5. Link together word opposites like, big-small, or long-short.
6. Link together words that rhyme like red-bed, or tall-fall.
7. Practice reading sight words that are on the cubes. Make a tower of correct and incorrect words. Try again on the incorrect words. Try to make a giant tower with all the sight words correct.
By making reading fun with exciting books, games, and manipulatives, toddlers will learn to read naturally. Fill their world with letters and words by decorating their rooms with alphabet posters and shelves of colorful books. My daughter was eager to learn, and she was reading just before her third birthday. But, each child is an individual with their own interests and timetable. The key to teaching toddlers to read is to surround them with fun reading tools, and let them set the their own pace for exploration and reading.