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Tips on Teaching Kindergarten and Preschool Kids to Read

by R. Renée Bembry


In this beginning reading stage, it is a good idea to relate things such as animals, characters, and inanimate objects to words on pages. In other words, if reading “Jack and Jill”, point out pictures of Jack and Jill characters in relation to their names. Ask who Jack is. Point to and have readers acknowledge Jack’s name. Ask who Jill is. Point to and have readers acknowledge Jill’s name. If the word “grass” is on a page and a picture of grass is in a drawing, have preschoolers imitate you as you point to the word grass and then point to the picture of grass.

After completing a book in which preschoolers point out words, read the same book again the following day or later that evening. The purpose of rereading books is to reinforce words preschoolers learn before they forget them. Repetition or practice is essential when teaching preschoolers how to read.

Once helpers and preschoolers read a book three or four times, encourage children to read “pages” without your help. “I bet you can read this page all by yourself now.”

When children attempt to read pages, helpers can either resume pointing out words, encourage readers to point out words as they go, or do both. When necessary, help children pronounce words by partially pronouncing (sounding out) words for which they have difficulty remembering. Let them - as much as feasible - finish words helpers only begin. Give lots of praise and high-fives as children complete individual sentences, paragraphs, and pages. Eventually, they will begin to read on from one page to the next without hesitation.

Give children the biggest praise possible once they complete their first books!

Helpers should note that some beginning learners might be reluctant to explain pictures at first. Should this happen simply take turns deciphering pages - helpers first - until children are comfortable with the idea. Then progress to having children explain every other page or so; and eventually they will explain any page asked. This method keeps children from becoming overwhelmed and keeps them from developing learner withdrawal.

Praise is a key factor in teaching children to read. Whether they get one word or ten words correct during a sitting, congratulate them for any number of words they get correct - deemphasize the fact that they missed words. They will learn more words next time.

Do not rush the reading process, instead, remember that according to school standards, preschoolers are still young, and do not “need” to read until age five or six. Any reading they accomplish in their younger years gives them edges on their peers but hampering is not likely to occur if they do not learn just yet.

Read your own books in front of children. This gives them the idea that reading is important because older folks are doing it. Most children automatically imitate those around them.

Encourage children to continue reading and help improve their reading progress by getting them books of their own. Get library cards for them so “they” can select books and check them out at libraries. Ask them what stories are about when they read books on their own. Read some of their books on your own so you can discuss the stories with new readers. This will allow you to assess their understanding of what they are reading. If they are having trouble with comprehension, helpers can point out information in stories all have read that young readers did not understand.

When teaching preschoolers or any children how to read, talk - even brag if you like - about the children’s reading success, no matter how small, to family and friends while the children are present. This gives children confidence, makes them feel proud of themselves and, hopefully, will gain them well-deserved kudos from others interested in their well-being. Oh... and one more thing, do not forget about flash cards, computer word games, and preschool educational television programs that help with word recognition and phonics.

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