15 ideas to enhance early literacy skills

young boy reading a bookEarly Literacy Skills—How important are they?

Joshua is in 4th grade and getting quieter all of the time.  He usually cries everyday after school because he can’t read like his friends or he failed the word problems in math class again.  His mother thinks the quietness means he is accepting his lower reading skills, but she finds out he has just given up. Joshua’s parents work three hours every night on his homework, but they aren’t trained professionals and don’t have specialized programs.  Yet nightly drills are the only way they know how to help.

But is Joshua’s a rare case?

No, he’s actually a part of the majority.  His reading struggles match those of 68% of the children in the United States according to the recent statistics from the US Department of Education. Studies have shown that obtaining reading help by the first grade promises normal reading ability for 90% of these children.  If help is delayed until age nine, 75% will have trouble throughout their school years.

This doesn’t mean if your child is older than this, you might as well give up.  The book, Parenting a Struggling Reader suggests that as a parent you should “exhaust all promising resources when teaching children to read. ”

But by promoting early literacy skills in your home, your child most likely will not need help later on.

Here are 15 fun activities that promote early reading or school readiness in your preschoolers that can be done at home, without expensive programs or that aren’t time consuming.

  • Set up a Reading Hour.  You can go to the library as a family and choose the books for the next reading hour.  This creates a cohesive feeling that “this family believes in reading and enjoys it.”
  • Discuss the books with your child.  “What did the boy say? Or, Why did they do that?”  This promotes language skills, listening ability, and understanding the meaning of the story.
  • Act out a part of the story.  This teaches the love of a good story and creativeness.  Motor movement imbeds the ideas into the brain.
  • Enrich their vocabularies with picture books like, The First Thousand Words or books with pictures arranged by categories.  These books are  colorful or have items hiding on each page to make them fun.
  • Listen to rhyming songs or nursery rhymes since rhyming is important to develop good phonological skills.
  • Practice recognizing the alphabet by matching the ABC’s cut from different materials.  Write out the letters in sand.  Glue beans or beads to letters that are drawn on paper.Use clay to buil the letters.
  • Put puzzles together to teach eye-hand coordination and visual processing skills.
  • Dominoes teach matching.  Whether it’s matching animals, shapes or colors, the concept of what looks the same is important later in reading.
  • Find picture cards with basic sight words.  Cut out or buy individual letters of the alphabet and take turns picking a card and finding the letters to spell that word.
  • Read absurd sentences to your child and have them tell you the word that was wrong in the sentence like, ‘I ate a balloon for lunch’. Then they can fix the word.  This teaches listening for information.
  • Clap along to syllables or count out words in sentences by using a drum.
  • Make up silly stories.  Put picture cards face down on the table and start a story.  For example, ‘Yesterday I was walking down the road when I found a,  (pick up a card),  sock’.  Then have your child make up the next part using a card that they choose.
  • Hide cards with letters on them around the room.  The child goes around and finds the cards, but now he must identify them before putting them in a basket. Older children should tell you a word that starts with that letter.
  • Use pipe cleaners or string to make letters.
  • Draw letters or numbers on each others hands and ask what was drawn.  Younger kids can have a choice of three letters or numbers to choose from that are written out in front of them.

As you see, there are many fun activities to get your young child interested in reading.  The most important thing is to roll up you sleeves and start playing!