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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of youngsters getting an early start with their reading. They're more likely to become lifetime readers and not struggle with their reading later.
The preschool years are when it's easiest to learn language. Very young children can become fluent in more than one language without effort. Left until they become teenagers or adults these same children would struggle to reach the same fluency.
It's the same with reading fluency. Besides books, there are lots of other varied and interesting ways that you can use to further develop their reading skills.
Here are some recommended by reading specialists for getting that early start at a time when preschoolers are happily absorbing anything and everything.
• Cook with them. This can teach measurement, timing and co-ordination. Let even very young children mix ingredients, break eggs and spread icing. Write simple recipes in very large print on cards and have them follow the instructions with you. Later they may even be keen to do some baking for you!
• Show them a large printed letter (e.g. "P") and have them circle all the P's they can find on a newspaper or magazine page. Move on to words.
• Cut up comic strips and get them to arrange the pictures in order.
• Play cards and board games with them.
• Make a large blackboard or buy a whiteboard and a supply of chalk or markers.
• Play rhymers - say a simple word and take turns finding ones that rhyme with it.
• Clap the syllables in words to teach an awareness of phonetics while sounding out one-syllable words like "cat" letter by letter (k-a-t) teaches an awareness of letters and their sounds.
• While helping with the dishes, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher have them sort the cutlery and count the cups or plates.
• Count lamp posts and look for car number plates with a particular letter combination.
• Read street name signs, stop signs, parking signs, shop signs (they learn the ice cream sign the fastest).
• Help them "write" their own books. Have them tell a story while you write the words in a large size. They can then illustrate. Staple it together and have it on hand for everyone to read.
• Have them find particular items on the supermarket shelves.
There's a myriad of things you can do. Get them to tell you what the weather will be from the television weather report; show them how to read a simple map to see where to go; make use of a children's recipe book; and decipher washing instruction labels.
Finally, we should model good reading habits ourselves. Let them see us read for pleasure.