Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teaching Little Ones to Read

My friend Kristin has three kids...her oldest are twins who just turned three. We have known each other since high school, and now we have another kinship - mothers of twins.

She emailed me yesterday asking a really good question, and I thought others might be experiencing the same thing. She wondered if I taught my kids to read at home or if they learned it more at school. She's working on letters and having them begin to write their names.

Well, first of all, I had to search my memory banks to think back to when Matt was three. I remember doing a lot with him...reading books together, labelling things in his room, writing words under pictures for him that he would glue into "his special books" (construction paper stapled together). Reading came naturally to him.

But I do remember at three being frustrated when his attention span was so short. He would never really sit for anything, unless it was on his timeframe (Obviously a first time mom at that point - now I just KNOW that's a part of being three).

So here's what I would suggest...make it fun, SHORT, and varied. Paint letters with water this summer on the driveway, use chalk, sand, shaving cream...don't pressure them. They will get it. Just expose them.

The other thing - TALK to them. A LOT. Telling stories and talking through things and giving things names is the first step. Seeing and being able to write them are a whole different level.

Another thing I did with him, and the twins was the letters of the week/day- eat things that start with that letter (it's a great way to get them to try, say, asparagus on "A" day) and read books that have that letter too.

With the twins, it was harder. There were two, plus Matt, that needed attention. I did some of the same things I did with Matt, but it was really double the work. Sometimes they would sit together, most of the times, no. I would have to catch them separately. Yep, anyone who says "I really wanted twins" -- I lose a lot of sleep those first three to four years...

And remember, each child will progress differently. Don't, even though it is really tempting, compare your child. That will translate into frustration, and frustration will zap the fun out of it...not a good pattern to start.

Try and take the worry out of it. Make it fun.

How did I fit it in? I scheduled our day in hour blocks...hour of free play, hour of games, hour of park, hour of rest, half hour of reading/half hour of writing (coloring, painting, etc.).

When you go places (like the zoo, Disneyland), don't buy stuff...get a book! I remember Ben buying his first book about baby animals at the Houston Zoo when we moved there. He sat there for hours and told me about how we saw the mommy and daddy animals -- highly motivated.

Remember, if your kids are in preschool, they are getting this there too -- but it is equally, if not more important, for you to do it too. It models that reading isn't just a "school" thing - it's a life thing.

Hopefully I answered your question Kristin...Just be patient, and enjoy...

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