Talking, Reading and Playing with a child every day helps with brain development, self-esteem and vocabulary, which is a key predictor of a child’s ability to succeed in school.
• Say your baby’s name often.
• Take turns making the same sounds as your baby. Babies learn that people react when they make sounds.
• Talk to your baby during bath time, play time, diaper changing, and feeding time. This is how your baby will learn the daily routine.
• Talking to your baby will help your baby learn to talk.
• Look at books together. This gives you a chance to hold and cuddle your baby.
• Point to pictures in books and talk about what you see. This gives your baby a chance to hear new words and learn to enjoy books.
• Read before nap time and bedtime. This routine can calm your baby.
• Give your baby time to move and play with you.
• Look and smile at your baby. Let your baby watch your face and follow your movements.
• Play with your baby using rattles, toys, and games like peek-a-boo.
• Talk to your baby during these activities
Instead of telling your child what you’re doing, ask her questions and have her explain. For example, if you visit the park, ask your child: What are you going to do first? Or, how many swings do you see?
Being able to rhyme is a core beginning reading skill. Help your child practice rhyming by asking them to find words that rhyme with things you see while driving or walking around. How many words can you find that rhyme with tree? What about car? Or store?
Kids at this age enjoy reading to their stuffed animals or dolls. Buy props that help her create stuffed animal story time. (Some ideas: pretend glasses to help bear see the pages in a book, a fun teacher hat for her to wear when she reads to them.)
One key reading skill is being able to identify words that start with the same letter. Tell your child two words that you heard on a Daniel Tiger episode, saw on billboards on I-35, or read in a book, and ask him if he hears the same sounds at the beginning of the words.
Chances are, your child is familiar with at least one iPad, Chromebook, or computer. Ask your child’s teacher for the best apps or websites for practice—screen time is best spent getting better at skills they already know, rather than trying to learn something new.
As your child learns how to “do” school, adding books, pretend play, and letters to his play area help create a “home office” for a young learner.
Cut out letters or buy letter magnets for your child to name, play with, and rearrange into words. Either challenge them to spell words you give them, or have them create their own words for you to read.
If your child likes to take control of your phone camera (and whose doesn’t?) challenge them to take pictures of words you see while on errands around town. Later, they can “read” the pictures and words from street signs, banners, and storefronts.
Ask your child’s teacher for a list of sight words, then print that list and hang it on the back of the front seats of your car so your child can practice reading sight words while they’re en route to and from school. To make a game of it, see how many words they can read aloud to you when you’re stopped at red lights.
Comprehension, or understanding what they read, is an important part of reading. As you read with your child, or when your child reads to you, stop every few pages and ask them: What happened? What do you think will happen next? Why?
Your child wants to read to you, but might be lacking stamina, or the ability to read for many minutes at a time. Alternate reading a page, then having your child read a page, both to model good reading, and to help your child build stamina for their own reading.
First graders are figuring out how to read dialogue and understand who is saying what in the stories they read. Bring home books with a comic book format or actual comic books, then you can each take a character or two to read.
Try out different voices when you read dialogue. You’ll inject some additional enjoyment into the book, and your child will practice fluency when she reads the same lines over and over in different, silly voices. Some ideas for voices: robot, mouse, bear, lion, pirate, opera singer, country singer.
If your child asks you what a word means, take the opportunity to look it up in the old-fashioned Dictionary, or on Dictionary.com. They’ll learn how to use a powerful tool, and you can explore the word’s synonyms, antonyms, and other meanings.
Fill baskets of books, magazines, and other reading material in the bathroom, car, and other places where your child will have down time. Make these portable by putting bags of books in the car, then your child can grab one as you head in to any errand that likely involves waiting (doctor’s offices, the dentist, etc).
Second graders love to hear stories about your childhood, when you tell them about your funniest Thanksgiving or your most embarrassing elementary school moment, you’re building vocabulary and modeling how to structure stories.
Series, like The Boxcar Children, Captain Underpants, and Magic Tree House, are great for getting kids to read, and read some more! The benefit of a series is that kids get to know the characters, so they can pay more attention to the plot and setting. (To get the most out of a series, consider partnering with families that all have third graders, each family buys a few books in the series and the kids can rotate the books among themselves.)
As kids progress in reading, motivation becomes more and more important and it’s important for kids to have some time to read what they want. Check out different genres, particularly funny books for boys, or poetry books that are witty and appeal to third graders (think: Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky).
Show your child a “mind trick” when you show them how to summarize anything (a recipe, a television episode, a day) in a few sentences and then how to apply that to reading.
Ask your child’s teacher for a list of irregularly spelled words that your child should know. (Irregularly spelled words like “would”, “two”, and “water” don’t follow the usual phonic or spelling rules. We just have to memorize them.) Then, decide how you want to practice them. Your child may want to use computer programs (Wordle, for example) to play with how the words look, or they may want to use flashcards to memorize them and see how fast they can read them.