1. Rich oral language makes learning to read easier.
The better your child’s oral language is, the more language your child has heard, the easier it will be for your child to learn to read. It’s important to expose your baby and toddler to as much oral language as possible. You want your child to learn lots of new words and sentence structures before formal school even begins. And, how do you do that?
2. Talk, talk, talk to your child!
This is crucial! Talk to your child while doing all the ordinary daily activities such as cooking. “Mommy is stirring the tomato sauce. Now, I’m going to pour it into this bowl. Mmm, it’s going to taste so delicious!” Describe what you’re seeing, smelling, tasting, touching. “Look at that beautiful sunset! The colours are lovely. There’s orange and pink and yellow!”
Your child is learning all kinds of new vocabulary and sentence structures. The better your child’s oral language skills, the easier learning to read will be. All of that rich language will already be in your child’s head and he or she will recognize it on the printed page and be able to predict what word comes next.
3. Use rhymes!
There are lots of wonderful nursery rhymes to teach your child – not to read at first – just to say out loud, such jewels as “Jack and Jill”, “Little Miss Muffet” and “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”. You can also teach counting with the last one.
4. Sing your heart out!
Put on a CD of songs for children at home or in the car. Some of my favourites are: Sharon, Lois and Bram, Fred Penner and Raffi. I used to use their songs when teaching kindergarten and with my own children. There’s also The Wiggles and Sandra Boynton. You can sing such classic ditties as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” whenever and wherever you can – in the car, during lunch time, bath time, bed time, any time at all. You don’t have to be Lady Gaga!
5. Tell oral stories!
Children want to hear stories about your childhood or their grandparents’ childhoods. My children loved to hear my true stories about “Harold the Bully” who lived down the street and who would torment me by trying to take my beloved red tricycle away from me.
You can use your first language, too, if it’s different from English. My father would tell me Ukrainian versions of Aesop’s Fables. When I started school, and heard the English versions, I already knew them!
The important thing is to expose your child to the structure of stories whether written or oral. Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
“It’s more fun to talk with someone
who doesn’t use long, difficult words
but rather short, easy words like,
“What about lunch?”
-Winnie the Pooh