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Ideas to help develop your child's pre-reading skills

Before your child can start to learn how to read they should first develop some very important pre-reading skills. The following are some ideas to help your child develop these skills.

1) Talk to your child and interact with them verbally. Yes, I know this is supposed to be about reading! But it turns out that the more you talk to your child, the better their language skills will be. Their first language skills lay the foundation for later skills, such as reading. Research shows that there is a direct relationship between a child's vocabulary and their reading skills. With young children tell them the names of objects everywhere - while shopping, going for a walk, etc. Don't be afraid to use big words with them.

2) Flash cards - no, I'm not suggesting quizzing young children with flash cards. I was in Wal-Mart one day and started talking to another mother. She had been told that young kids like flash cards with colorful pictures on them - it helps them to learn words of common objects and make a connection between real life items and pictures of them. So I bought some and sure enough, my daughter really likes them. She like to look through them and ask me what the picture is, she can sort them and mostly she likes to move them from one container to another, but that's what toddlers do!

3) Work on making sure your child grows up liking books and associates reading with fun. A great way to do this is to read to them as much as possible.

4) Rhyming is important for learning about the sounds and rhythm in a language and in texts. Understanding rhymes is an important early step in learning phonics. Research shows that kids who 'get' rhymes start out with an advantage when it comes time to learn how to read and spell. Knowing that some words rhyme and others don't indicates that they are able to distinguish between different sounds, sometimes subtle, in a language.

Some ideas to help your child with rhymes are, well the obvious ones, like nursery rhymes. There are some good books available with nursery rhymes, or do a search and find some on the web. Pick out the ones you like best, learn (or re-learn ;) them) and teach them to your child. Make it fun!

Songs with words that rhyme are also great. Find some you can tolerate listening to a zillion times a day - not an easy task! Make mp3's, or find a dvd or a video on YouTube with some you like and watch with your child. Schoolhouse Rock songs are good choices. Learn the songs and sing along - it doesn't matter if you sing well or not. Eventually sing on your own without the music everywhere, around the house, in the car, etc.

Find ways to combine both spoken rhymes and songs with movement, for example clapping or finger motions like itsy bitsy spider or head, shoulders, knees and toes. Or even simple dancing.

Books with lots of rhymes are great too - like Dr. Seuss for example.

Try sometimes leaving off the last word that rhymes and see if you child remember and can fill in the word. Sit around and come up with words that rhyme - cat, mat, sat, that, hat for example.

5) Matching is another simple and important pre-reading skill for kids to develop. Any activity that involves matching pictures, shapes, letters, numbers or other items can help children. Eventually as kids start to learn to read they need this skill to be able to match words. Ideas for helping your child learn matching concepts include shape sorters, simple puzzles, dominoes, card games - even helping to sort pairs of socks in the laundry. You can also sometimes find very simple activity books that just have kids do things like matching pictures that are alike. Or a homemade idea is to get some index cards and put stickers on them - some with the same stickers so they can match the ones that are alike and learn the concepts of same and different.

A sort of more 'high tech' approach would be to buy some of the books with sound buttons that have pictures in the text that correspond to buttons on the side of the book. As you read the book to your child, move your finger along and when you get to one of the pictures they are supposed to press the matching button. These books allow them to be more involved when you read to them as well as practice matching pictures.

6) Understanding patterns like 'triangle, circle, triangle, circle' also helps children to learn to read later on. You can find activity books where kids can fill in the next item in the pattern or make your own with a pencil and paper.

7) Sequencing involves knowing what happens first, then what happens next and so on - or understanding the correct order in a sequence of events. You can help your child practice this by asking what he or she thinks will happen next in a familiar story, or having them put a series of cards with pictures on them in the right order.

8) Teaching your kids the alphabet is an obvious pre-reading skill. Many kids may learn the alphabet song at a young age, but they may not yet associate the names of the letters with the actual letters or their sounds.

For more information please take a look at some of my other articles about reading:

Help your child become a good reader - and enjoy reading!

How to best read to your child

Ideas for books that offer interactive features and engage other senses

Help your child learn the alphabet

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