Sometimes, the talk about the importance of play overshadows the importance of learning to read and write. There, I said it.
Some professionals are so engrossed in defending the importance of play, that parents are feeling like they need to second guess themselves every time they get involved in ‘teaching’ a new skill. “Oh hang on, but shouldn’t I just let he/she learn by playing rather than actually teaching them?” It’s confusing, to say the least.
When it comes to reading, children should learn to read through a mixture of exposure, teaching and play. Reading to your child and instilling a love of books can be beneficial from birth. Once a child’s language is well on its way though, there’s a lot they can learn which will help them for when they are ready to read.
Please don’t get me wrong. Play is fundamental to young children’s learning. I have a strong belief in balance and knowing a child first, before making a decision on how they ‘might learn best’. A 3 year old might be too advanced for using the questions below, not ready or just right. You take their lead and run with it.
Here’s 5 questions you can ask next time you read with your 3 year old. Don’t ask them all in one go! Pick one or two to use each time you read. You don’t want them to get bored or over it, reading should always be fun and a great bonding time.
1. Which way does a book go?
Sounds simple to us, but giving a child a book upside down or flipped over is a great way for them to realise the front and backs of books and that the book needs to be upright in order for us to read the words!
Once you open a page, simple questions like “Where do I start reading?” and “Which way do I go?” prompts the child to realise that we read the words from left to right. Follow the words with your finger to subtly give them that awareness too.
2. What is going to happen in the story?
Talk about what might happen in the story before you start reading. A 3 year old might look at the front cover and guess who the main character is or perhaps what the problem is in the story. Predicting the story is a great way to establish that traditional narratives have a problem in the middle of the story which is solved at the end.
3. What letter/word is that?
It doesn’t hurt to ask this, especially as they get a grasp of identifying letters. Often if there’s the same word in the book, like “SNAP!” on every page, I will ask Tom “What word is that? Can you run your finger under it and say it?” and I might say it slowly, “S for…ssssnap!” he’s looking at and making the connection. He’s not exactly reading, but it’s a good start.
4. Did you like that story? Why?
Appreciation of books is so important. As someone who hid under the doona reading until 3am, I have a strong belief that even as young as 3, they are entitled to an opinion on a book. If they didn’t like it? That’s ok. It only helps them to know that THEY have the power to find what they like and go from there. Tom is currently onto Hello Kitty books and I’m down with that!
5. Would you like to read it yourself?
I LOVE hearing Tom read a story to himself. Gee, it warms my heart. He’s reading from memory of course, and he’s constructing the sentences by looking at the pictures, but hey, all those things are important for early readers too. Often if a child in Prep gets stuck at a word, they are encouraged to look at the picture for a hint. Retelling the story in their own words helps them build their language skills and so much more!
Do you ask these questions to your toddler when reading? Do you think you might give it a go? Let me know how it goes!