When I started teaching Kindergarten I was given this book called (affiliate links for your convenience) Reading Magic by Mem Fox. I read it before stepping foot in my classroom, thought it was good, and went about teaching Kindergarten with those skills in my teacher’s toolbox.
It wasn’t until many years later that I truly and completely saw the value in that book.
The incredible power of doing the one simple thing mentioned in that book was practically immeasurable. I have seen first hand little ones who have benefited from it, and those who have suffered from a lack of it.
When kids start Kindergarten there is a difference in vocabulary of 4000 words between the strongest student and the weakest. 4000 words!
The advantages that the children have with such an advanced vocabulary are tremendous. They are perceived as brighter, so immediately (and subconsciously by many adults) given more leadership opportunities, more advanced learning opportunities, and more challenging activities.
These little ones with such a vast vocabulary have such a wealth of knowledge to draw from. They understand new concepts much quicker and easier, as they have such a strong foundation to build on.
Since other adults perceive them (and treat them) as being bright, these children perceive themselves as bright and confidence soars.
So what is this magic?
What is the one thing you can do right now so your child thrives at school?
Read Aloud to them.
I know what you are thinking … That?! I know that. I do that already!
But do you really?
There are periods of my life when things get so full, busy, and hectic. Days when bedtime stories are so rushed and not even enjoyable to me, so certainly not to my little ones. Reading to my little ones has been seen as just one more thing to check off the list before I put them to bed.
That is not Reading Aloud.
I am happy to say, that the vast majority of the time, I do in fact Read Aloud.
Reading aloud is making books come alive. It is telling a story with the authors words, but your unique voice and expressive eyes.
It is looking at the pictures and giggling as you race to find the striped zebra, fluffy bear, or enormous elephant.
Reading aloud is reading a story so many times that you fall in love with it and you and your little one know it by heart. Your little one will be filling in words, reading whole sentences, or even the entire book, by heart.
Reading aloud is a magical time that needs to be seen as absolutely necessary, but treated as a complete joy and pleasure. Because it really is.
Truly, what else is more important in my life than spending quality, bonding, one on one time with my kids?
And the fact that when I am having this magical time, I am also ensuring their literacy success at school? Well that is just icing on the cake.
There is really no right or wrong way to read aloud, as long as you are engaged in the words you are reading and little one you are reading it with. However, there are some games and read aloud activities that can make the reading magic even stronger.
To begin, it is important that you read for the love of reading. And you are reading good books. Books that are interesting to your little one, that have a lovely rhythm, and that are developmentally appropriate. A quick trip to the bookstore or library and chat with a librarian or bookstore owner will ensure you are on the right track. One of our favourites is this Dr Seuss book with 6 of his best stories inside. Full of rhyming and rhythm and great for young children.
(While we are on the topic of books – do you have the best one of all?)
Once you have a few good books, get familiar with them. Take your little one on a ‘picture walk’. Look at each page and find some fascinating things in the pictures. Ask your little one if she can find certain animals, and have her do the same for you.
When you do this, you might just find a big bear. Later, when you read the story, you might read a sentence about a tremendous bear. Just like that, your little one is being exposed to another word for big. Her understanding for what that word means just grew — tremendously.
Then read the story. Read it and play. Let your little ones stop you to ask questions, or to really study the pictures. Read it all the way through, or just a page. Whatever feels right.
If it is a good book and your little one loves it, you will read that book again and again. Many good books for children have lovely rhythms and rhymes in them. This makes it easy for little ones to predict words that are coming, and helps them join in with the book once it becomes familiar.
Once children begin school and begin formal instruction on learning to read, they will have this immense wealth of knowledge on books, print, and sentences. They will know that books are to make sense, that pictures make sense, and that often things rhyme.
This knowledge is so beneficial when children are learning to read.
In fact, one of the books I read states that a child’s vocabulary when entering school is a predictor of reading comprehension in Grade 3. Pretty powerful stuff!
So there you have it. The one simple thing you can do right now to ensure your child thrives at school: Read aloud.
Awesome, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading friends, hope you are having a lovely week.
Looking for more ways to get your little ones ready for school?