If I could wave a magic wand and do something that would give every child a better chance in life, it would be to instill in each and every one of them a love of reading. Too many children experience a slow start in learning to read, or worse yet are turned off to reading before they are done with elementary school. I am always amazed by the number of children I see (and parents, too!) who tell me that they never read for fun because it is boring or too hard. Yet teaching a child to read, and to love reading, depends on early experience. There is a growing body of research that shows that preschool children who are not only exposed to early reading experiences, but exposed in the right way, have an advantage over other children when they start formal reading instruction. Most parents realize that it is important to read to toddlers and preschoolers as often as possible, but many are uncertain as to how to do that in a way that will help their child develop both the language skills and the love of books that will help them succeed.
A recent article by Jamie Chamberlin in Monitor on Psychology, a monthly publication of the American Psychological Association, discusses recent research on the best ways to engage young children in the reading experience. In “Bringing books to life: Psychologists’ research points to new ways to nurture young readers”, Ms. Chamberlin describes what we are learning about effective strategies for helping children develop both skills and interest in books. Recent studies show that these strategies can boost children’s vocabularies, language development, letter-recognition, and awareness of the sounds that make up our language. Helping children understand the connection between those little squiggles on the page and the speech sounds they represent is especially important, as a failure to develop that skill underlies most cases of reading disability (also known as dyslexia).
Some of the most helpful strategies parents and preschool teachers can employ include:
I hope you find these tips interesting and helpful. You can read the full article, and view a video of a teacher using some of these strategies at www.apa.org/monitor/digital/literacy.aspx.