Matching skills are among the earliest that little ones can master on their path to reading, as it helps them to understand how to connect words with concepts. Matching pictures with spoken sounds, then matching pictures to others that are thematically related, is a key aspect of learning to read. Matching shapes, patterns and letters eventually evolves into the ability to match and recognize the patterns of printed words, phrases and sentences. Using homemade or store-bought flashcards, playing matching games, and working on the concept of matching through explorative play are all effective ways of building that foundation. (image source: http://blog.eeboo.net/tag/eeboo-pre-school-games/)
Working on rhymes and learning about rhyming words helps little ones to develop phenome awareness, which is the understanding of how words sound and are formed. This essential building block of pre-reading skills can be established and developed through rhyming games, listening to rhyming books as they’re read aloud, and singing songs that prominently feature a recognizable rhyme scheme. Researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, including experimental linguist Michael Wagner, claim that their studies suggest that hearing a word spoken will activate rhyming words in the listener’s brain. In fact, a 2004 study shows that young children associate the way that words sound and the fact that they rhyme over the words’ actual meanings. (image source: zazzle.com)
Helping kids to learn the alphabet usually begins with singing the same melody that’s been associated with the ABC’s for generations. After kids have largely mastered the task of reciting the letters of the alphabet, it’s time to start helping them connect the sounds of those letters with their visual representation. Flashcards printed with a single letter are a great way to reinforce this association; once kids have learned the shapes that make up a letter, you can then move on to associating a letter with a familiar image. For instance, “A is for Apple,” et cetera.
While speaking to children in a pleasing tone is most effective, doing so in a high-pitched, babbling sort of “baby talk” actually does more harm than good. The earlier a child is exposed to spoken language, the more easily he will absorb and learn to repeat it. With a strong grasp of language comes an increased ability to master early reading skills, so make sure that you speak with your charges often, and do so in a clear, understandable voice. Even children that have not yet mastered verbal skills on their own will do so more easily if they’re exposed to plenty of spoken language as he reaches late infancy and early toddlerhood.
How to Properly Handle Books
When toddlers are taught to properly handle a book, making sure that it’s not upside down, they’re already mastering an important pre-reading skill. Turning the pages in sequence, looking at the pictures, and learning to understand that the words printed on the page are what makes up the story, helps them grasp the concept of print and understand that words are read from top to bottom and from left to right. Encouraging your charges to look at their books by holding them the right way and properly turning the pages establishes and reinforces skills he’ll need when he begins early reading in earnest.
Even if your toddler-aged charge can’t read his own bedtime story yet, you can help him to learn a valuable skill along the path to reading by working on the concept of sequencing. Learning that a puppy can’t dry off before he jumps in a puddle or that cookies can’t be eaten until they’re baked reinforces the logic behind sequencing, a fundamental skill. Making sequence cards, practicing predictions of upcoming events in a story, and even working together to help him write a story he dictates to you are all great ways of establishing the ability to recognize and understand sequencing.