Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Teaching little ones to read.

        My twins are 5 years old and trying to read....EVERYTHING.  I absolutely love it and hate it at the same time.  I love their enthusiasm about words and letters.  Every outing is filled with, "what does that say?" multiplied by 2, repeated a thousand times.  I remember each of my older children going through the same phase in their development.  The teacher in me is sooo excited to hear them read new books for the first time and reread favorites for the twentieth time.  I love it.
       Ahh, but here's the rub.  OMG, can we get from here to the grocery store without reading EVERY SINGLE BILLBOARD!?!  Do you know how many billboards there are in a major metropolitan area?  Too many to count but apparentlyy not too many for 5yr olds to want to read. Each car ride is filled with monotone call and response: "That says blah blah blah for alderman, sweetie." "An alderman is a person in local government." "The train says Northern Pacific, baby" "I know you're not a baby." "I don't know what ECT stands for on the train," " That sign says buy auto insurance," and on and on and on.  By the end of the ride I feel like I have ADD, unable to focus on a single topic for an extended period of time, and completely warn out.
       Now that I have vented; I admit that though, tiring, I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love being a teacher and when it comes to my own children.....its all hands on deck.  So I have several suggestions to those parents working with little ones that are excited to read.

  1. READ to your child.  If you are really busy and you have older children, have them read to the little ones.  It allows the older ones to practice oral reading, builds bonds between siblings, and makes the little ones feel special.
  2. Take 15 minutes a day.  Go over letters, letter sounds, word families, and sight words (in that order) with your children for 15 minutes each day.  (Try not to move on to the next skill till they have mastered each one) Small children have short attention spans; this makes it time convenient for parents on the go.  Therefore, make or purchase flashcards and review them each day.  You will be amazed at how quickly your child learns if YOU remain consistent. (I will provide links to supplemental materials that are helpful with this.)
  3. Make it fun.  Ez has a spelling test coming up and struggles with spelling. So we act out the spelling words while we spell them to help him remember.  For example MOM; I ask him to find a mom in the room, then spell the word.  Then I ask him to act like a mom, then spell the word; for ODD; (I use the easier definition of strange because they don't understand odd and even yet). I show him something odd, then we take turns doing strange/goofy things; each time spelling the word afterwards.  If acting doesn't work, trying drawing pictures that help them remember the word.  (Meanwhile, his twin sister is playing and learning at the same time.)
  4. Be/Get Prepared. There is no excuse for not providing your children with the supplies they need to succeed.  Buy or make flashcards.  Go to the dollar store and get workbooks.  USE the workbooks.  Buy or make audios of the letter sounds.  We spend our money of junk everyday; why not put it to good use. 
  5. Use technology. We live in the age of technology. Find websites that are suitable for your little ones.  Allow your little ones to use the computer.  My children have been using a mouse and keyboard since they were 2 and 3 years old.  At first, I moved and clicked for them; now they can all but log on by themselves.  Short of a global catastrophe, tech will be here so our children must know how to use it.
  6. Be Patient.  Always remember to check your anger and expectations at the door.  If this is your first child, remember, they are not you.  He or she learns at their own pace.  If this is your 2nd + child, remember, he or she is their own person.  No two children learn the same way (I say this while trying to teach twins to read).  Study your child(ren) to know what works/motivates them.  Personally, I have a pile of colorful stickers available at all time.
Remember Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested. ~African Proverb


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