You are your child"s first and most important teacher. Use this article to help your young child learn to read.
The story "Pirate on a
Purple Planet" is about the parent
of twin kindergartners. As you read it, watch for ways that their mother and father help Chris and Mike learn to read, like reading the newspaper to them and asking questions about the book they"re reading.
Build your child"s
reading skills by trying the
Use the CHECKLIST at the end of the article to think about your child"s reading skills.
This is my favorite time
of day. It"s about six in the morning
and I"m alone at the kitchen table. It"s beautiful outside: warm and breezy. Dan has already started
working. We grow apples. I guess
you could say we"re farmers, even though Dan and I both have full-time jobs as well. He"ll prune some
trees this morning, until about eight o"clock, then clean up, drive the boys to kindergarten, and
go to work.
Chris and Mike will be
up any minute. They"ll roll out of bed and hit the floor like sacks of potatoes. They will get dressed, and come
down for breakfast. Sometimes
Ihave to show them that their socks don"t match, or their sweaters are on backwards, but for five-year-old
boys, they do okay. Part of doing things on their own comes from living on a farm, part of it comes
from watching Dan when he works
hard: he grew up in a big family, where you had to take care of yourself!
When they come into the
kitchen, the boys pour some cereal
and sit down with me. Then we plan our day. I like to start the day by showing them something in the morning
newspaper that"s interesting or fun, like a new space mission, or the man who grew a 30-pound
cucumber. I read part of the story to them and show them a picture, if there is one. I know they like doing this,
because the first thing Chris says every day is "What"s new, Mom?"
I also get them to wake
up their minds a little at every breakfast, pointing to all the food on the table, and they tell me the letter
each one starts with:"T, toast; C, cereal; O, orange; J, juice!"
Then we go over the
schedule: what time Dan will drive them to school, what time I"ll pick them up, any special errands we have to
do today, what"s for supper.I
think the boys like knowing what"s
coming, and, sometimes, how they can help. For instance, this afternoon, I need
to make a trip to the grocery
store. I"ll make a list of what we need, and Chris and Mike will suggest things
to add. They"ll check the
cupboards to see what we"re out of, and tell me as Iwrite the list.Sometimes they write their own lists. Even though at this age they"re
mostly pretending to write, Chris can write his own name.
The last thing we do
every day is read, even if we"re tired. Chris and Mike have collected a lot of books and keep them
all in a bookcase. The other night, I looked at those books and realized how much they have helped
my sons. We"ve come a long way from
the days when I would read to them and they would just listen.
Last night Chris took
his favorite book, The Knights of Neptune, out of my hands and read the whole book to us. He wasn"t reading all
of the words most of it came from memory, because we"ve read that book a hundred times but he
got a lot of it right. By now, both boys know a lot of the words just by seeing them, like "space,"
"ship," "fly," and "Earth." The funny thing was, when Chris got a part of the story wrong,
Mike spoke up and corrected him. They are also starting to challenge each other:Mike might say,
"who can find a word that rhymes with space in the book first?"
One great thing about
living here is that the night sky is very clear and full of stars. Mike and Chris sleep near a
window, and after Dan and I turn out the lights they can look into space. Sometimes we"ll sit on the edge of
their beds and ask them what they
see "up there." Mike usually answers with something silly, using a new word he just learned, like "a
pirate." I"ve been trying to get him to talk more in whole sentences. So I say, "Tell me more." "I see a
pirate on a purple planet," he"ll
say. "What"s he doing?" I"ll ask. "The pirate is building a space ship out of space trees and he"s going
out to find some space treasure," he
Chris is more of a
talker. When he looks up at the sky, he usually asks a lot of questions. "Mom, how far away is that
star? Dad, what are those dark
spots on the moon? Do you think people live up there?" Dan and I have been
talking about taking the boys to
new places. Work here is so hard, but we need to take some time off, even if
for just a day or two. Lately, the
boys are like sponges, learning everything so fast. Dan"s brother lives in the city, about three hours away, and he
says we"re always welcome to come and visit. There"s an art museum I want to go to, and a science
museum that has a telescope and a planetarium. I think the boys will just be amazed at the huge
buildings and all of the different kinds of people. Chris will be full
of questions. Mike will do a lot of watching and thinking.
One way my boys are
alike is that they"re going to be ready for first grade next year. They know the alphabet by heart, and when you
suggest that it"s time to read, sometimes they even cheer. (Well, Chris cheersÉMike just smiles!).
I have the feeling that we"ve done a lot of the right things.
Some day, I think Chris
is going to be an explorer maybe not a space explorer, but I"m sure he will discover something. Mike? I hope
he"ll be a writer. He uses words in interesting ways, and he has such a big imagination. I"ll miss
them when they grow up, but I"m not worried about that yet—it"s a long time away. For now, I love the early
morning talks about the news, and
the late night questions about the world. And I love the feeling of holding a book with my boys
sitting beside me.
Try asking your
kindergartner questions like these
when you read together.
Is this a real story or
a made-up story? How can you tell?
We don"t have ships that can fly
people to Neptune.
What can you tell by
looking at the cover of a
book?The title, the author, pictures about the story.
Where is the top of the
book? Where"s the bottom? Point to each.
Valiant means brave. Can
you tell who was valiant in the
story? Can you think of people in
other books who were valiant?
How many words can you
think of that sound the same as
"doom?"Room, boom, broom, etc.
How are Space Commander
and Skip each feeling in this part
of the story? Scared, nervous,
Who do you think is in
charge of the space ship? How can
you tell? The commander; he is
telling the others what to do.
What would you name a
space ship?Enterprise, Jupiter, Fireball XL5.
What do you think will
happen next? Maybe the Knights of
Neptune will follow them, or maybe they"ll go home to rest, etc.
Neptune came closer and
closer. The stars sped by. Space
Commander wondered why.
Lieutenant Skip began to
"I"m afraid, Commander!
Something is pulling us down! We"re
going to crash! We"re going to smash!"
"Don"t be rash, Skip!
Get a grip! This isn"t the end of our
trip! We"ll find a way to save the ship!"
"The Knights of Neptune,
Commander! They"ve found a way to
seal our doom! The ship will smash, we"ll go ka-boom!"
"I know a way to save
the day" shouted the valiant Commander.
"If we fly fast, give the rockets an extra blast, we might just go right past Neptune!"
He pushed some
buttons—one, two, three, then a blue
one labeled "ENERGY"—and they felt themselves break free!
A smile spread across
the Commander"s face as his ship
soared swiftly into space.
 My child knows the shapes and names for the letters of the alphabet and writes many uppercase and lowercase letters on his own.
 My child knows that spoken words are made of separate sounds.
 My child recognizes and makes rhymes, can tell when words begin with the same sound, and can put together, or blend, spoken sounds.
 My child can sound out some letters.
 My child knows that the order of letters in a written word stands for the
order of sounds in a spoken word.
[ ] My child knows some common words such as a, the, I, andyou, on sight.
 My child knows how to hold a book, and follows print from left to right and
from top to bottom of a page when she is read to.
 My child asks and answers questions about stories and uses what she already knows to understand a story. These skills usually develop when a child is in kindergarten. Talk with your child"s teacher if you have questions.
 My child knows the parts of a book and understands that authors write words an
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