Years of research show clearly that children are more likely to succeed in learning when their families actively support them. When you and other family members read with your children, help them with homework, talk with their teachers, and participate in school or other learning activities, you give your children a tremendous advantage.
Other than helping your children to grow up healthy and happy, the most important thing that you can do for them is to help them develop their reading skills. It is no exaggeration to say that how well children learn to read affects directly not only how successful they are in school but how well they do throughout their lives. When children learn to read, they have the key that opens the door to all the knowledge of the world.
Well-trained reading teachers and reading instruction that is based on research can bring the best teaching approaches and programs to all children and so help to ensure that "no child is left behind". However, the foundation for learning to read is in place long before children enter school and begin formal reading instruction. You and your family help to create this foundation by talking, listening, and reading to your children every day and by showing them that you value, use, and enjoy reading in your lives.
This article includes activities for families with children from infancy through age 6. Most of the activities make learning experiences out of the everyday routines in which you and your children participate. Most use materials that are found in your home or that can be had free-of-charge from your local library. The activities are designed to be fun for both you and your children as you help them to gain the skills they need to become readers.
You could say that your baby starts on the road to becoming a reader on the day she is born and first hears the sounds of your voice. Every time you speak to her, sing to her, and respond to the sounds that she makes, you strengthen your child"s understanding of language. With you to guide her, she is well on her way to becoming a reader.
To understand the connection between a child"s early experiences with spoken language and learning to read, you might think of language as a four-legged stool. The four legs are talking, listening, reading, and writing. All four legs are important; each leg helps to support and balance the others.
This article gives you information about how you can use your language skills to build your child"s skills. It offers suggestions about how you can:
-Talk with and listen to your child.
- Read together with her.
- Help your child learn about books and print.
- Encourage your child"s early writing efforts.
- Help your child learn to read if his first language is not English.
- Prepare your child for success in school.
The major portion of the article contains activities that you can use with your child to strengthen her language skills and encourage her love of reading. However, these activities are only a starting point. We hope that you and your child will enjoy them enough to create and try many more on your own. As a parent, you are your child"s first and most important teacher. You don"t need to be the best reader to help—your time and interest and the pleasure that you share with your child as part of reading together are what counts.
We all know that older children can do things that younger ones can"t. This is true for reading, too. To help show when children can take certain learning steps, this article ties the discussion and activities to four age groups: Baby = birth to 1 year Toddler = 1 to 3 years Preschooler = ages 3 and 4 Kindergartner/early first-grader = ages 5 and 6
Please note: In this article, we refer to a child as "him" in some places and "her" in others. We do this to make the article easier to read. Please understand, however, that every point that we make about reading is the same for girls and boys.
Keep in mind, however, that children don"t all learn at the same pace. And even though they learn new things, they may have "old favorites"—books and activities from earlier years—that they still enjoy. You are the best person to decide which activities will work best for your child.
Children become readers step by step. By age 7, most children are reading. Some take longer than others, and some need extra help. When children receive the right kind of help in their early years, reading difficulties that can arise later in their lives can be prevented. This article offers steps that you can take to start your child on the way to becoming a successful reader. It is an adventure that you will not want to miss, and the benefits for your child will last a lifetime.
"As parents, the most important thing we can do is read to our children early and often. Reading is the path to success in school and life. When children learn to love books, they learn to love learning."
- Laura Bush
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