Discovering the joy of reading is one of the most precious gifts you can impart to your child. As your little one begins their first step towards this joyous journey, it is important to keep in mind the 5 basic elements of reading that can help your child become a fluent and confident reader. Today we bring to you simple, play based, fun activities based on these 5 basic elements that can help your child grow into a confident reader.
Phonics is the art of connecting the sounds of letters to their written form. It also includes bringing to your child’s attention to how the sounds change when two letters come together.
For example, the letter ‘s’ has an /s/ sound, but if you add ‘h’ to it, it becomes /sh/
Phonics is the first element, the nut, and bolt, that holds the reading process together. It allows your little one to process the letters they see on the page and verbalize them into respective sounds. It does not matter if your kid actually knows the meaning of these words, just being able to phonetically sound them out loud will help them register more words in their brains and later identify them by sight easily.
Rhyming: Pick activities that involve rhyming words. You can either read poems or match word cards with their rhyming partners.
Hopscotch: Substitute the numbers in hopscotch with different sounds. As you dictate the sound, the kid must hop on to it.
Change the letter: For older kids, give them a word and ask them to make as many new words as they can by changing its first letter. For example, like can be modified into bike, mike, hike, etc.
Phonemic awareness is the concept of understanding the different sounds that make up a word. At first, this may seem quite similar to phonics, but it is not. Phonics delves into the relationship between a letter and its sound, whereas here we are exploring the relationship between words and the different sounds the word is composed of. Phonemic awareness is fully centered around hearing – there is no need to see and read words from a page.
For example, if your kid hears the word cat, knowing to differentiate between the individual phonemes that make it up – /c/, /a/ and /t/ is called phonemic awareness.
This primary skill helps your kid identify and manipulate the sounds of words that they hear.
Phonemic Awareness Exercises:
Isolating Phonemes: You can say a word out loud and ask your child to identify a single phoneme. E.g. What is the first sound in the word ‘fish?’
Identifying Phonemes: Help your child actively concentrate on phonemes by asking them questions like, ‘What is the common sound in the words boy, bell, and bed?’
Odd one out: Say a few words together and the kid identifies which word doesn’t belong. [see, saw, rib, sit]
Blend the phoneme: Pronounce phonemes that make up words separately and ask the child to blend them together. E.g. What word is /s/ /o/ /x/? Ans: Socks.
Kill the phoneme: Let your child figure out what word they get when a specific phoneme is removed from a word. [What word do you get when you take out /d/ from draft? Ans: Raft]
Vocabulary is the tool box of words that your child understands and can use in their life. The larger their vocabulary, the more words they know, the better they become at reading, understanding, and expressing themselves. Vocabulary isn’t quite a skill; it is a personal collection that your child amasses over years of reading.
Having a large vocabulary is essential for good readers because you can only keep reading the text if you can understand its meaning. Children with broader vocabularies are more confident in approaching unfamiliar material and can figure meanings for new words automatically based on context clues.
Word of the week: Introduce three new words to your child every week and applaud them whenever they use it in the week.
Creative words: Ask the child to use last week’s three words in a story. Or for older kids, ask them to tell a story with as many new words as possible.
Word Collection: Let your child maintain a little word journal with all the new words they come across. Work with them to explain the meaning of the new words.
Fluency is the skill of reducing the gap between seeing a word and understanding its meaning. It is the ability to read with understanding, accuracy, and speed. Fluency is a skill that stems from strong phonics, phonemic awareness, and vocabulary. When a child is fluent, they can follow a text effortlessly – descriptions turn into images for them, and they can hear the pronunciation of words in their heads even when reading silently.
Children without fluency struggle with getting into the flow of the text. They often read aloud in choppy clips, usually in a monotone, oblivious to the shifting pace and tone of the text. This can result in a painful reading session where the child is able to successfully decode all words on the page, but being unable to actually connect with it deeply.
Reading: Reading to your child regularly helps them form a strong model for their fluency. Vary your pace, change voices, and be expressive so your child immerses into the story and experiences the flow.
Reading in chorus: Read a story aloud to your child and ask her to follow along with you. This helps your child practice pace and expression as they try to match with you.
Audiobooks: Audiobooks, when paired with text, can hone your child’s ability to follow along and link the words on the page together to see the whole story. Let your child listen to the audiobook as they follow along in a paperback. This also helps them build their own ways of expressive reading.
Comprehension is your child’s ability to understand the information that a piece of text sends out. If a child is comprehensive, they can answer the what, when, who, where, meaning, and the idea that the book imparts.
Good comprehension allows a child to draw information and meaning from a book. When there is good comprehension, reading a book transcends from being a homework activity to something that influences their thoughts, inspires their feelings, and changes their life. It lets them think about what is happening in a story and melds them into the emotional journey of the characters.
Draw a story: Tell your child a story and then ask them to draw or paint it. This encourages children to bring the story alive, where words aren’t just words – they are real things.
Question and answer: Ask some open-ended questions to prod your child to think about a story from different angles. Ask about how the character changed, or at what point did they change, etc.
Reflecting: Discuss with your child about the feelings that arise when they hear a part of a story. What do they think is going to happen next? Was what the character did right or wrong? Also, narrate a tense part cheerfully or a comic part seriously and see if they can catch you.
Acting: Let kids role play a scene from a book they’re reading. This helps them further visualize and connect with the story.
Form connections: If you are describing something unfamiliar to children, explain the part briefly or maybe play a video on it. This helps them better get into the story. You can also pause in the middle to encourage your child to take part. For example, if your story has a pup, ask the children about their pup. Or do they have another pet?
Little ones often stick to a single story and will want to read it over and over, again and again. This may seem futile and maybe your child even knows all the lines by heart – yet it is okay for them to do so! As they hear the story over and over, first they understand the pronunciation, vocabulary, and then the wheels turn slowly deep inside as they explore fluency and comprehension. Reading books with repetitive text and familiar sight words are the best options for toddlers and kindergartners.
The best thing you can do to help your child become a confident reader is to joyously partake in reading from as early as possible. Make reading a celebrated part of your life and they will forever cherish and remain close to it!