Build Early Reading Skills at Home
Words are all around us. Take advantage of the many different ways you can turn something simple into an engaging activity. Watch as your child gets excited about reading words everywhere you go.
1. Alphabet Placemat Game
Alphabet placemats turn mealtime into an opportunity to practice alphabet skills and beginning phonics.
To make a simple placemat, have your child write alphabet letters on a large piece of construction paper. You can also use alphabet stickers, or free printable letters.
During mealtime play a letter game with food words. Start by finding the letter that makes the first sound in a food word. Continue will all the food on your child's plate. If your child is ready, find the other letters in the food words.
2. Read Around the House
Kids learn to read stop signs and the names of their favorite stores and restaurants at a young age. Bring this learning experience indoors by putting signs around your house.
Children love learning to read names, so post a sign with family member names on each bedroom door. Your child can help decorate signs to label every room in the house. Limit signs to one or two words so your child is successful every time they read around the house.
3. Make a Family Alphabet Book
Make a very personal alphabet book by using family photos. You will need a collection of family photos and a 27-page blank book using paper in a binder, a notebook, or by stapling pages together.
The first page of the book is for the title and author name. This is a great place to put a photo of your child.
The next page will be for the letter A. Choose a family photo with a person, place, activity, or thing that begins with A. Glue the photo onto the top section of the page. Write a word or sentence under the photo, making sure A’s are written larger and darker than the other letters.
Continue making a page for each letter of the alphabet.
4. Take a Picture Walk Before You Read
Do you love reading to your child? This activity teaches an important early reading skill called predicting.
Before reading a picture book, take a "picture walk". Don’t read any words. Instead, look at each picture and talk about what you think is happening. Make a prediction about what might happen next. After you turn a page, ask your child if they were surprised by what came next.
Now you are ready to read the book!
5. Play I Spy Colors
Turn the art on your walls into an opportunity to practice reading skills.
Ask your child to tell you which colors they see in a picture hanging on a wall. Write the color words on paper, using a colored marker that matches the color word.
Place the color words at eye level under the pictures. Then play “I Spy” by pointing to a color word and saying, “I spy something in the picture that is _______(this color).” Your child will have fun looking for something you are thinking about in the picture that is the same as the color word you are pointing to.
For an extra challenge, use the color words to find things in a room.
6. Visit the Public Library
Surround your child with books. Regular weekly visits to your local library help your children become a lifelong reader.
Ask if your library has a collection of early reader and alphabet books. Take a stack home to practicing reading letters and simple words.
7. Act Out the Story
Join in with your children and retell a story by acting it out, complete with simple costumes and scenery. Acting out a story teaches the important reading skills of sequencing, summarizing, and identifying main idea, setting, and characters.
For extra fun, invite friends over for a kid-style book club party. Instead of sitting around talking about a book you have all read, invite everyone to act out the story together.
8. Car Games
If you spend a lot of time in your car, use the time to practice early reading skills. Hearing sounds in words (phonemic awareness) is simple to teach in the car.
- Play the Robot Game. Say a word very slowly, separating each sound (/c/…/a/…/t/). You will sound like a robot. Ask your child to guess what word you are saying.
- Listen to rhyming children’s songs. If your children love to sing, encourage them to make up their own rhyming songs.
- Which one is different? Say three words. Two should begin with the same sound, and one a different sound. Ask your child which word begins with a different sound.
- What do you hear? Say words with 3 or 4 letters, and ask your child to say the sounds or letters they hear in the word.
9. Move Your Body
Have fun learning the alphabet. Name a letter and ask your child to form the letter shape with their body.
Act out a movement that begins with a letter. For example, skip for the letter S. Hop on one foot for the letter H. Zip around the yard for the letter Z.
10. Sorting Sounds
Sort things you see by the sounds in words. The essential skill of hearing sounds in words is important for early readers.
This game can be played anywhere. For example, when you are in the kitchen together, sort ingredients for a meal by the first sound you hear in each food word. In the backyard, have your child sort toys into piles based on the last sound they hear.