My little guy is a reading machine lately. Sitting at the counter at breakfast, he's reading the syrup bottle; putting on his shoes, he's reading the artwork on the wall; driving down the road, he's pointing out signs and asking what "merge" means. Wait, what? Weren't we just working on sounding out dig and up? Things have truly been clicking.
I know most of the reason it's clicking is that he is just ready. You can't force a kid to eat. You can't force him to sleep. And you certainly can't force him to read. He's going to do it when it is interesting enough to him, and when he is developmentally ready. But I also know that the building blocks his amazing Kindergarten teacher is laying out before him, and the support we give our youngest at home, have paved the way for this hunger for reading to become a reality.
I reference that he's my youngest on purpose, because the way we support Camden looks quite different than the way we supported Jonah, our oldest. The nature of what our lives look like now has forced us to take a different approach. We can't always be home at 7:00 to do bath time, books, and bed like we used to. Often, we are at the ball field at 8 pm. So, we've had to get creative.
Below, are some things that have worked for us. Maybe you'll see something you want to try? If you do, drop me a quick line and let me know what worked for you. Or if you have another idea I haven't mentioned, please share. I am always up for new strategies!
1. Talk letters and words in the car. Remember that ABC game you used to play on long family car rides? Each person is looking for a sign/license plate/store name that starts with A, then B, then C...first one to Z is the winner? We love playing this game, so we tailored it for Camden. Instead of having to find a whole word that starts with the letter A, he is just looking for the letter. Then we look for a B, then a C, and so on.
2. Don't be afraid to be silly. Camden and I were playing with Bananagrams tiles and he started spelling his friends' names. Then he spelled a crazy name and said, "I have a friend named 'xoo'." We started laughing, and that began the game of, "I have a friend named, "zet," and I have a friend named, "zozvanunai." Each time, he sounded out the name of the fictitious friend, and in doing so, practiced "chunking" syllables, an important skill kids use when they read. Without even being aware, he was breaking apart a word into syllables that may not have meaning, but still follow the rules of phonics that he has learned. If you don't have any Banangrams, put them on your list--endless games with these tiles!
3. Get these books!!! Ok, so having been a former teacher, we have no shortage of books at our house, so when Camden brings home the scholastic book order form, it usually goes straight into the recycling bin. BUT, these books? They are THE best. For starters, the elephant's name is Gerald, which in my opinion is a perfect name for an elephant, especially one with a terrific temper like this character, but an equally strong sensitive side. Piggy's name is, well, Piggy, and she is just as hilarious and spastic as they come. The book pictured above has been read EVERY night for the past five nights in Camden's room, and if you can believe it, we laugh just as hard as we did the first time we read it, each subsequent time. Gerald's parts are written in gray speech bubbles, Piggy's are in pink, so we take turns reading our part. In the interest of time last night I told Camden I would read both parts, but he insisted on reading Gerald's. Now, there's a series in which I can invest.
4. Be curious yourself! Gerald's name perplexed Camden. Why did it start with a G, yet sound like it started with a J? So, we started trying to think of other words that are spelled with a G but sound like a J. We thought of giraffe and then got out his Big Picture Dictionary to see if there were any more. Giant and gym were pictured. And then Carson came up with gerund. Seriously, Carson? Look it up. :)
5. Leave books, magazines, and letters where they are easily accessible. There is always an open National Geographic magazine mingling with our juice glasses and cereal bowls at the breakfast table. The kids roll their eyes if I ask if they want to look at it, but if I leave it open, I tend to catch them absorbed in an article. Camden keeps a stack of his Pete and Cat books at the ready in the car. Sometimes all it takes is for me to get out the Bananagram tiles and start building words myself to get my kids to engage in a game of Bananagrams. Seeing his big brothers involved in word games encourages Camden to do the same. And EVERY night before I pass out on my pillow, I can be found reading a book.
What kinds of things happen at your house to encourage literacy? It is not only necessary for me to engage my beginning reader in literature, it is important to keep encouraging my older kids to read as well. It is getting increasingly difficult to persuade kids to get their hands dirty working with letters and words and books, but it is an important job for us as parents. I want to keep the art of reading books alive for my children. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being transported through time and space by the words poured out on a page by someone who felt their story important enough to work through literal blood, sweat, and tears to produce a work of literature. How will you encourage your children to keep reading?