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And... We're Reading!

That's right, my kid is learning how to read. She has pretty much nailed the C-V-C three-letter words, plus a number of the high-frequency sight words that one might find in every piece of writing (e.g. the, you, and, day, etc.). She can sound most printed words out if they follow phonetic rules, and when they don't, she has been asking us about them. She can do a bit of spelling too (the CVC words for sure, but the other ones I'm not so certain), and if we spell words out in conversation these days, she can pretty much figure them out. S. H. !. T. LOL

Some might think I've totally been Tiger Mom'ing her, drilling her or sending her to Kumon or some kind of preschooler's tutoring service, but I assure you, I've kept my teacher tendencies in check and have not in any way influenced her reading interests beyond actually just reading with her. In fact, I've been quite content to follow her cues and let her show readiness in her own time. And she has; she will quite often point at words and attempt to "sound them out" even when we're not paying attention. She reads words on walls and words from the signs in the mall. She asks questions about what words and symbols (like the % sign) mean, and she has (as of the last two weeks) been insatiable in her desire to read with us.

Obviously, every kid develops at a different rate, and by the time she's in second grade, nobody will give a rip which kid started reading first. So, to put it in perspective, it's not a race and if your kid isn't reading yet, it's not an issue to start sweating about. My kid has yet to ride a bike or even pedal with any proficiency; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so I'm not here to gloat.

I do, however, want to share with you a few of the things we've been doing to help cultivate her literacy, since for Little L it seems to be effective. Take it or leave it as you wish :)

1. Phonics Apps
Since age 2ish, Little L has been playing on her iPad. Some of the games we've loaded up for her are spelling games that help emphasize the sounds that correspond with each letter. The apps we've used have included:

Teach Your Monster to Read (Usborne app)

Words that Go (by Learning Touch)

Word World Interactive Episodes for iPad

Endless Alphabet / Reader / Wordplay (by Originator, Inc.)

She has played these for a long time, so I'm sure that half the words are memorized simply because she has been repeatedly exposed to them. The end goal for me, though, was that she correspond the various sounds with their symbolic representations (upper/lowercase letters).

2. Reading, Especially Rhyming Books
The single most important thing that we could do to help Little L become a good reader has been to read to her, and cultivate a love of books. The actual acts of sitting together and turning the pages of a book teach a ton about the direction of text, the structure of books (title pages, table of contents, page numbers), the format of sentences (how words strung together should sound), not to mention the emotional connections that are formed when a loved one sits with a little and invests time and attention into sharing a story together. Even at age 4, my kid loves to curl up on my lap when we read a book.

While rhyming books aren't always interesting to us grown-ups, they've been particularly useful for Little L because they provide her with a rhythmic pattern that makes nursery rhymes easier to memorize, and rhyming words easier to identify.

3. Fill In the Blank
As we have become more familiar with these rhyming books, I have begun to read the text and leave out the last rhyming words of the phrase/sentence. Usually, Little L will then pipe up and tell me what that excluded word was. This has helped her gain confidence in her "reading" skills as well as help her figure out rhyming words.

4. Magnetic letters
We picked up some foam upper/lowercase magnetic letters from Zulily and have had them on display on her easel for quite some time. As she has become more familiar with words, we sometimes will build a word on there (or even a small message) for her to read. She also plays with the letters and will put together random strings of consonants and vowels and ask me what they say. Great teaching moments, plus the letters we purchased were intentional about making all the vowels yellow and the consonants blue and red. Little L quickly learned which letters were vowels, and I quickly learned that she is not a fan of vowels :)

5. Word Family Activities
Most recently, as Little L has begun to show a greater interest and desire to read, I've been putting together little flip books and sliders to show all/most of the words that belong to a single "word family" ("Word families are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern - they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound. For example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the "at" sound and letter combination in common" - thanks, Google, for the concise explanation!). While we're sitting at the dinner table, sometimes I will do a couple of books with her. It gives her great joy to be nailing it when it comes to "reading" these words, which are made easier to read once she figures out the pattern (e.g. all '-in' words have the same ending sound, so you just have to add the first consonant sounds to decode all the words in that "in" family). 

6. Simple Word Magnetic Poetry
Only in the past couple of weeks have I dug out my kids' version magnetic poetry set. The words contained in those magnets are fairly high-frequency words (e.g. girl, boy, happy, monkey), so Little L is able to identify a good number of them. We have been playing with those words on a cookie sheet (since the easel is all filled up with letters), and she has really gotten a kick out of reading the little phrases I put together. 

7. Back to the Board Books
Rather than donate/sell all of Little L's board books or "easy books" from when she was little, we keep them in her library and still revisit them often. The great thing about this is that as she becomes more familiar with decoding simple words, the better able she is to read these books independently. It has been so neat to see her read (not just memorize/recite) books somewhat on her own. 

These are just some of the things we've been doing to cultivate our kid's growing interest in reading. It's by no means an exhaustive list, nor is it prescriptive so much as it is a little peek into what we've been doing. I'm already running out of ideas, since she still has another year of preschool before she even starts kindergarten, and if she's anything like Hubbs, she will be full-blown reading by the time she's five. Yikes. 

What have you been doing to help nurture your littles' reading (and writing) skills? Please share!!   



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