Everyone knows how important reading is, and the younger you start with your little ones, the better. Preparing for your child to build a love of reading starts early and can be done easily at home. Working with your child at home is an essential element in how well your child does in school and how quickly they pick up reading once they enter school full time. So, if you're looking for some simple tricks to do with your toddler at home to help them gain those early reading building blocks, we’ve got you covered!
1. Read aloud, everyday! Children LOVE hearing stories and repetitive reading is the #1 thing parents can do to ready their child for school. Set aside some time, everyday, to read a few stories with your child. Choose from a variety of types of books: rhyming ones, Dr. Seuss, animal books or books about their favorite TV or toy character. Even if your child wants to read the same book over and over and over again- that’s fine! Some of these early favorites turn into the first books they will read. Point out and name some pictures in the books while you read; this helps build a connection to words and an illustration. Have a busy on-the-go type of toddler? No worries! Read while they play; they don’t have to be sitting on your lap to be listening. Stick to these rules when doing read alouds with toddlers: short, simple and often.
2. Sing the ABC’s! Seems simple enough, right? It is! Children are naturally drawn to the rhythmic pattern of the ABC song and learning their letters is the first step on the journey learning to read. Take this one step farther by playing some ABC games. Print out and laminate a big colorful set of ABC’s and “quiz” your toddler on the letters (not flash card style, of course, but make it into a game). Start with three letters and ask them “which is the A?”. Know your child's limits and don’t push them. Foam letters in the tub is another great time to practice letter recognition: “Oh no! The B is covered in bubbles! Let’s find the B and clean him off!” These simple games take just a few moments but add up to big changes in the end.
3. Sound study. The next step to learning to read is knowing which letter makes which sound. Phonemic awareness is a major concept and takes some time but start some basic knowledge with your 1-2 year old by working on the first letter of their name. “Abby starts with A! A A A (make the 'a' sound) What else starts with A? Apple!” Have them help you think of another world that starts with that letter.
4. Create a book basket! Find a heavy duty, toddler-proof basket and place some favorite board books in it. Place it right by their toys wherever they play. Stick to board books at this age since toddlers are not known for their gentleness with paper products. Encourage them to look at the books and show them how to hold the book correctly. When they are looking, drag your finger under the words in a left to right direction, this will eventually lead them to have a good grasp on basic book and story structure. Ask them questions about what they are reading too. Point to a character: “Who’s that?” “What are they doing?” It’s okay if their answers are completely wrong, these questions will later lead to having a stronger grasp on story comprehension.
5. Have some Baa Baa Black Sheep time. The nursery rhymes we read and sang as a child are still important today. Children love these rhyming patterns and the sing-songy nature of the words and when we read them, they begin to hear the natural balance between consonants and vowels. This helps them learn how to put them together to make words, which is an essential element in language development. Since nursery rhymes are patterns, they are easy to memorize, which is an important skill for cognitive development. They also teach alliteration, pattern recognition, and basic story structure.
These five strategies are simple and so important to helping your child get a jump start on their journey to becoming a reader. By setting some time aside each day to read with your toddler, they will be well on their way to becoming a long time reader and lover of books.
Remember to listen to your child’s cues; there's no need to push it! Even brief reading sessions will give them the essential experiences that lay the groundwork for reading. By simply reading with adults, toddlers gain vast knowledge about the world around them and building these strategies into your everyday routine will allow you to have a lover of books in no time!