The primary goal of reading instruction is not simply the recognition of letters and their sounds but understanding the relationship of the words to their meanings.
It’s clear that literacy is a process that involves a long period of conditioning and practice and is best served by introducing a child to reading long before formal schooling begins. Development of strong vocabulary and an awareness of narrative are evident in children who have experienced the stimulation of being read to by someone, from an early age. Both subtle and sophisticated concepts of language such as phoneme awareness, diction and pronunciation are more easily absorbed by children who are frequently read to, starting when they are quite young.
Studies have also shown that when a parent takes the time to sit with their child and reads while moving their finger along with what they are reading the child absorbs the visual cues and tracking skills faster than if the parent simply reads to them. This technique has the further advantage of adding an interactive element to reading practice as well as giving a parent the opportunity to observe their child’s developing skills when they participate by moving their finger along the words as the parent reads them.
Sharing a book with a child in this way, can then lead to further discussion of the story, its characters and events and how they relate to an outcome, a moral or lesson etc. Pausing to speculate about what will happen next or if they have ever heard of such a thing before; affects a deeper absorption of the narrative and creates a greater involvement and comprehension.
Over time these techniques usually lead to a life-long methodology that engages a child’s sense of wondering and curiosity which leads to a desire to read more, not only to learn about things and understand the world around them, but a real enjoyment of reading. This is a recipe for success in school and beyond as their vocabulary and comprehension grows with the continual stream of words they encounter.
Literacy, by definition, is an amalgam of both verbal communication and understanding of written words and what better way to begin the development of these skills than reading with your children and discussing as you go, starting as early as possible with the basics like books about the letters of the alphabet. Don’t forget that something as rudimentary as the alphabet to you; is a pretty hot topic to a young child. So if you show enthusiasm for the books and stories you share with them right from the beginning they are likely to pick up on that enthusiasm as well.
In addition, maintaining momentum and reinforcement of the child’s reading skills can be achieved by the use of a quality reading program where training in phoneme awareness, pronunciation, alphabet recognition etc. are accomplished through clever interactive games, songs, rhymes and other activities that pre-K children find fun and entertaining. Although reading programs are not a substitute for the special time a child experiences during reading sessions with a parent, a reading program will provide the necessary repetition to support a child’s developing reading skills.