Dr. V.S. Gayathri
Reading To Preschoolers!
Have you ever realized that “The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'.” as rightly stated by Alfred Brendel? To listen to something in silence and get engrossed in it, the content must be very powerful and engaging.
We all know how difficult it is to make toddlers to sit, as they are highly energetic and active at this age. However, reading to them should be an important part of their daily schedule. Before preschoolers can start reading, they need to get familiar with letters and then gradually words. Hence, the fact that words are made up of smaller sounds, which is known as phonemic awareness is very important at this stage. Many parents often fret that their child is late in reading or they don’t want to read much.
Somewhere, this is linked to the fact how much they heard or listened to when they were a toddler or a preschooler. It has been re-instated through various studies that the more you read to your child during the early years, the more they grasp and express.
Reading to your child had manifold benefits which we have already discussed earlier. Here, I want to focus on different effective techniques for preschools. Preschoolers mostly comprise of kids between 3 to 5 years. Their pre-reading skills should mostly start with
How to read and teach letters?
Kids at this age should be exposed more to bigger and single letters at a time. If you directly start with reading or showing them complex words or tiny letters from a book, your whole exercise will be futile. Rather try out one of the following ways:
Try to show and read aloud from billboards outside or big boards at the supermarket. These are easily visible and easier to interpret as well.
Rather than making it boring or a forced activity, use fun elements like playdough or kinetic sand etc. You can ask them to make a letter with them, initially single alphabets then probably 3 letter words.
Flashcards have been there for a long time as a meaningful tool for teaching kids. You can first readout simple words and ask them to pick up the right flashcard or vice versa.
Fridge magnets are a fun way to reinforce learning. They are fun to watch and learn.
You can also use old newspapers or calendars where you can circle out big letters or numbers for them to identify easily. Gradually, you start reading the full words.
How to read and teach rhymes?
Kids love it when they can learn things in a fun way. That is why rhymes are something that is taught at an early age as it adds a fun element. So, using the rhyme or rhythm in different ways while reading is a great way to teach them.
You remember the good old ‘I Spy’ game where one person becomes a spy and selects an object while others have to guess it. You can use the same one with a twist. Make it simpler for them by using household or their favourite things like ‘S’ for Spiderman or ‘F’ for Frozen etc. Sometimes, they might answer F for phone as they are still not familiar with F and Ph.
Singing rhymes or rhythmic words while reading makes it more fun. You can want to change the words of familiar rhymes a bit and urge them to make their own like ‘Twinkle Twinkle little moon, I will come to see you soon...’
You may also want to start with rhyming books because hearing you read that more often, the child might want to read themselves.
How to read stories for preschoolers?
Reading stories to your kids has a huge impact on them. Not only, it develops focus, cognitive and analytical ability, but also nurtures their imagination and creativity. So, read as much as possible.
Try the following kinds of books for preschoolers:
alphabets, shapes, counting etc.
books with simple stories on family, friends or places like park or school with rhyming words
books with a mix of characters like their age group, elders, animals etc.
stories with a sense of humour or fun like a naughty or a silly character
books on a specific interest like animals, football or inventions, etc.
Try the PEER sequence. Prompt-Evaluate-Expand-Repeat is like a short conversation with your child. Read the book at once and ask your child to say something about it, then evaluate what they said and discuss more on it. Finally, reinforce the point to check whether your child has learned the right thing. Use Wh-questions to explain the incidents in the book, Open-ended prompts for illustrations or Distancing prompts, where you ask your child to relate what he/she heard with similar or familiar things they know of.
Some good suggestions for preschoolers are:
Dr. Seuss books for rhyming words
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt (they also have some nice videos)
What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson
Llama Llama books
Some effective learning apps that you can try:
Alphabet Blocks on YouTube
Here are some important pointers to note when you are reading to a preschooler.
Do not get frustrated if your little one is not sitting in one place while listening to you. They are highly energetic, so you cannot expect them to sit for long. So, try to find ways to make them sit like urge them to make their own story or book.
Keep reading even if they are moving a bit. Their attention spans will get longer soon.
Make bedtime reading a habit. The sound of your voice will be a soothing reminder of the routine that books are an enjoyable part of it.
Most importantly, never stop reading because reading facilitates different modes of expression like listening, writing and creativity which are important life skills for any of us.