My kindergartner is at the cusp of moving to first grade. Finger painting, singing rhymes and playing with toys has made way to cursive writing and reading. She has always loved letters, wondering what they meant. She would stare at the words in the book and what they meant. She was confused how we all seemed to be reading out meaning from these patterns. Her father was bemused, watching her squinting and turning the book, trying to make sense of the secrets that they refused to reveal to her.
Eventually, after starting on her phonics book she started reading letters and small words like cat, map, how etc. Things started heating up when her elder sister reported that her classmates were reading sentences effortlessly. As a new age over-anxious urban mum, I sat with her determined that she must keep pace with her class. We started with her phonics book which she seemed to read quite effortlessly. So I took the newspaper and made her read words like ‘the’, ‘how’ and so on. She stared at the words. This ten words a minute speaker looked like she was swallowing her tongue. Alternatively, she would try to guess the word. ‘This’ would sometimes be ‘the’ or ‘then’. ‘How’ would be read as ‘horse’ or ‘hen’. She would spend minutes trying to guess the word from her vocabulary but not read it.
Naturally I turned to the Internet for advice. Writers from Roald Dahl to Ruskin Bond all advice that children must be read to, routinely. Somehow one tends to put off reading to children, at least I do, which is so hypocritical considering I shout about children watching too much television or playing on their tab and not reading enough.
I started then reading to her every day for about fifteen minutes. We chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar, simply because she loves it. We were then reading Dr.Seuss and Nursery Rhymes. Sure enough, she was willing to be read to anytime. Cuddled with me on the bed or a sofa, I would read to her. Sometimes I would stop and ask her to read out a word. Initially, tears were shed for the effort. “Please mama, don’t make me read words”. I continued to encourage her, telling her not to be afraid to read the letters and string them up. If she stumbled on words like ‘Once’ trying to read them phonetically, I would step in and help her. I had to assure her several times that it was alright if she got the words wrong, but she had to keep trying.
Yesterday we decided to attack that wonderful Dr.Seuss book ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’. This book is made for reading, by the author who clearly loves his words and uses them irreverently.
This one has a little star.
This one has a little car.
Say! what a lot of
fish there are
Yes.Some are red. And some are blue. Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad.
And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they
sad and gald and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.
These rhymes go on and on. You have to wait in between while your little reader reads then takes a break for a short chuckle or a long rolling on the floor laughing. Dr. Seuss makes reading such fun. The repetition of words, the usage of rhyming ones, absurd ones, and simple new ones will all engage the young reader.
The quirky illustrations are the best.The Zans who opens cans, the Ying who can sing and the Yop who hops from finger top to finger top are illustrated in their hairy best!
Equally helpful are the Ladybird series of reading books. Rex the Big Dinosaur and The Tale of Peter Rabbit are some of the excellent books I used to help my child read. The small size of the books in hardcover make it easy for them to hold and read. The illustrations in glossy paper and the large sized font are extremely reader friendly.
Helping a child learn to read is on par with helping them taking their first steps. It must be done consistently, with a reassuring hand and using a variety of books. For more tips on getting kids started on reading you could read the post ‘How to Get Children Started on Reading‘.