Sunday, April 29, 2012

* Help Get Your Kindergartner Ready To Write

Helping your kindergartner or pre-kinder aged child get ready to read and write is not as scary as it sounds. Your kids will get excited about reading and writing because they seem to be hard-wired to do it naturally at this age. You do not need a degree in early childhood education or special workbooks to help your preschooler transition from a pre-reader and pre-writer into a little reading and writing master!
Good news, you probably have everything you need in your home already. You will just need to be supportive and patient - easy.

My own daughter "C" (age 5) is wrapping up her final year of preschool and will be heading to kindergarten this fall. Her literacy skills are growing stronger each day. She isn't reading yet and that's okay, although she has a few classmates who are. My older daughter "E" (now age 9) wasn't reading yet at this age either, now she stays up half the night devouring books. I can remember distinctly one afternoon when a friend of hers was over for a play date and he picked up a book and read it fluently from cover to cover. I was shocked and felt like a failure as a mom (and former teacher no less!) Then I reminded myself that all kids learn at their own rate and will do things when they are ready. It's not my job to push my kids but to just provide the kind of environment that nurtures and encourages them to progress at their own rate. A similar thing happened to me when "E" was learning how to walk and a play group friend of hers was walking up and down stairs without any adult help, guess what - "E" learned how to walk up and down stairs just fine!  I wish I had read this article on Mom's Homeroom about getting your child "Ready to Write" when I felt discouraged. If we spend all of our time as parents comparing our kids to other kids all we will do is stress ourselves out. 

Reading and writing at this age isn't just about memorizing words, it includes differentiating colors, sizes, shapes, and using context clues to comprehend everything from the sign on their favorite toy store to the label on their juice box. 
Quick quiz:

* Do you have scrap paper or writing paper available for your child to "write" and draw pictures on?

Your child is building muscles in their hands and fingers that will continue to grow as they write in school. They are learning how to make symbols, shapes, and lines that will combine to make letters. If they're making letters, they will start to sound them out and learn how to put them together to make words. They will start writing simple first words like: their own name, mom, dad, cat, etc. 

* Do you have plenty of children's books available to read out loud to your children?
(Hint: your local library is a great free resource!)
* Do you read aloud to your child every day?

Good, they are gathering context clues from the illustrations and watching the way you turn the pages and read a book from the front to the back, left to right, and seeing the size and shape of the words on the page.

* Do you have cereal boxes, cracker containers, etc. on your kitchen counter at breakfast?
* Does your child accompany you to the store to shop for food? 
* Does your child accompany you on walks around the neighborhood?

Great! They are looking at street signs, and studying shapes and colors of words and symbols.
Making shopping lists and crossing items off the list (even if it's just simple pictures) is a fun way to experiment with reading and writing.

Did you pass my quiz? Of course you did. 
Your child will show a natural interest in using the words and writing in his or her own world. 

This is one of "C"s "comic books."
She fills pages with wavy lines as the writing and uses stickers to make the pictures.
I remember making stories this way as a young child. 
It is common for children at this age to scribble lines of "writing." 
She may even try to "read" her scribble stories to you, it's a great way to encourage your budding reader/writer. You can encourage your child when they do this by saying, "Good job, you're reading!"
This will help your child start to see himself or herself as a reader. Do this when they pick up a book or magazine and "read" it to you, even if they're just making up words as they go if you celebrate and reward their efforts they will be encouraged to keep trying. 

My daughter "C" also enjoys making small books for her dolls. 
It is not uncommon to find her working quietly at her desk and later discover a pile of tiny books or magazines complete with stapled spines, simple illustrations, and wavy line "writing."

If you read and write with your child at home, it becomes something fun and imaginative instead of just another school activity or assignment. Here are some more simple ways to encourage your little pre-reader and writer in your home. 

Set up some stamps - it's a fun way to experiment with symbols and shapes on paper. 
If you have a set of alphabet stamps it's a great way for your child to experiment with making simple words (or even non-sense words, that's okay too!) They will start to learn which way letters go. 
You can even staple a few sheets of blank paper together to make a simple book or journal for your child to write, draw, or stamp inside.

Try a weather calendar. Simple charts like this weather calendar teaches your child how to draw symbols. This simple calendar is hanging on our kitchen refrigerator for my daughter to record the weather each day by drawing a picture. 
She learns about symbols and how to read a calendar (pretty sneaky huh?) 

Record memories. I also keep simple journals where I ask my daughter to draw a picture and I write down what she tells me about it -- it creates a keepsake and record of her drawing and writing and is a another kind of "book" in her life. I'm showing her that books are important and that her ideas and drawings are valuable to me as well. 

By encouraging your child's natural pre-reading and writing in it's many shapes and forms they will blossom and grow into lifelong learners and lovers of reading.

Pink and Green Mama

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