There is typically a sensitive period between the ages of 3 and 5 years old, where children become curious about reading and writing. At this age, children are looking at picture books and listening to stories being read aloud to them by either a parent, older brother or sister, teacher, and/or some kind or technology (computer, CD, toy, etc.) Most likely, after the book is read, children will sometimes imitate “reading” the story based on what they can remember. Sometimes, they might be caught “reading” to a stuffed animal, a younger sibling and/or friend, or even to themselves! If you catch your child imitating reading, then they are most likely entering a sensitive period.
There are a new set of standards currently being implemented in the United States called “The Common Core Standards.” These standards require every child to “step up their learning game” because difficult skills will be introduced at earlier ages. Even at the preschool level, children will be expected to complete tasks that are even difficult for a fifth grader to complete. One of these tasks involves making connections to a text. Good reader’s can make connections in a variety of different ways such as: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world. A text-to-self connection is the simplest type of connection to make. It involves finding a part of the story that reminds the child about his/her own life experiences. A text-to-text connection involves finding a part of the story that reminds the child of another story he/she has read or listened to. A text-to-world connection involves finding a part of the story that reminds the child of an experience that he/she has witnessed in the outside world; however, this experience did not happen to the child. For example, something he/she watched on TV or in a movie or an experience that has happened to his/her sibling, friend, people watching, etc.
Many children at this age do not have too many experiences to make connections with. Here are some idea’s that you can do to help your child make connections:
1. Read with your child. Research shows that children are better readers when they are exposed to text interaction early on in life and often.
2. Think out loud while you’re reading with your child depending on the skill you want him/her to work on. For example, if you are reading the book “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen (which is about a little girl and her father taking a night hike in the middle of winter to look for owls), you could say “This story reminds me of one of my favorite seasons, winter! I like winter because the snow blankets the ground and makes the world seem to sparkle and it brings a calming peace. What do you like best about the winter? What does this book remind you of?” Keep on modeling this type of thinking out loud every few pages as you read together!
3. Complete activities with your child after reading a story together. This could be an art activity, having him/her choose another story to read that is similar to the one you just finished, going to visit one of the settings of the story such as a park, a museum, a hike, etc. watching the movie version of the book and discussing the similarities and differences, writing a song together about a theme or a character in the story, acting out a scene in the story, etc. Be creative!This will help your child build memories that they can use later in their educational careers as well as fun memories with their parents!
As an educator, I would always tell the parents of my struggling readers not only to spend time as a family making reading important and apparent in the household, but to also build upon their knowledge with experiences. Find out what your child is interested in and that will help you to choose stories that they will want to read! From there, you can go to a hockey game if your child is interested in sports or to help out at a local shelter for a few hours one day if your child is interested in animals or even to an art museum if your child is interested in painting. The possibilities for learning would be endless!
What were some of your favorite books to read as a child? Do you have any fond memories or interesting experiences that stemmed from reading this book?