There is an easy project you can do that will result in improved reading for your child. It can be done with her, or for her. It can be thrown together quickly or painstakingly as a treasured work of art. It guarantees results for the pre-reader as well as the beginning reader. What is this piece of homemade educational magic? A homemade book. Really! All children are egocentric. They love anything about them. What could be better than a book, featuring pictures of them, relating something they experienced?
Gather pictures from a recent vacation, a trip to the park, a visit to Grandma’s or whatever family pictures you have on hand. The pictures need to be about something your child did but not every picture needs to have him in it. You could also take photographs with a book and story in mind. How you put them together is up to you, the amount of time you have, and the energy you wish to expend. The book quickly made on the computer or the finely crafted scrapbook-style book work equally well. Use simple sentences for your narrative, such as “This is Jimmy. He is getting ready to go for a walk.” Limit yourself to two or three sentences per page and no more than six pages total. You can make more books later.
When you are ready to read together, limit other distractions and noises in the room. Sit side by side or with your child comfortably on your lap. Look at and talk about the pictures first. If you didn’t make the book together, you might write in some of your child’s own words as he is talking about the pictures.
To begin reading, take your child’s dominate hand to place under the first word in the sentence. If your child doesn’t automatically put his pointer finger out there, help him to shape and hold that point. Now read the words together, moving his hand across the page, just under the words as you read. This is important because it automatically teaches reading the left to right movement of reading. Go slowly, but don’t stop at each word. If you know who Mr. Rogers is and how he talks—go that slow and easy. Stop at the first sign your child is getting restless or at the end of the book, whichever comes first. Pull out the book again on another day to repeat the process.
Your child will quickly memorize bits of the story, and then may recite the entire story, “reading” the book to you. Please don’t discount the memorized reading as not really reading, because it truly IS the first step in the reading process. Even if he isn’t exactly matching the spoken word to the written word it will happen soon.
Shared reading, adult with child, comfortable, secure, enjoyable—it is the easiest most efficient way for a child to move into reading. Soon he will learn some sight words and the sounds connected to each letter and then to blend each. But this is where it starts, the foundation. Help build a solid one.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.