Heat up summertime reading skills for preschoolers and kindergartners

Are you getting your list of grown-up beach reads ready for summer vacation? Whether turning pages or scrolling screens, summer is a super time to get caught up on those must-reads and wanna-reads. It also brings indoor and outdoor opportunities to get little learners ready for preschool and kindergarten in the fall and the wonderful, powerful world of words and reading.

Some learning is sequential, just as we crawl before walking. However, learning words and letters is kind of chaotic, as words are spoken before the alphabet is learned. Pre-reading comes before reading and takes many forms. You are reading an 18-month-old’s favorite book about a truck. You say, “Point to the truck,” and he obliges. That’s pre-reading. Or a 3-year-old points to squiggles on a page and says, “Let me read you the story I wrote.” That’s also pre-reading. It’s about making connections between letters, words, and objects.

Before teaching actual words and stories on paper, you can help children become perceptually ready to read by getting them listening and practicing. With toddlers, label/name items or things: tree, glass, dog. Encourage plunking little things (like chip clips or measuring spoons) into big things (like a basket or carton). This develops eye-hand coordination, a prelude to writing.

Read stories to your kids—lots of stories. Reading books with rhymes helps develop a child’s awareness of the sounds in our language, an ability often associated with reading success in the early grades. For example, books in the 3-level Start-to-Read! series, available in paper and e-formats, feature controlled vocabulary, simple sentence patterns, and rhyming words. They also draw from familiar themes and life situations that help kids learn problem-solving. After reading a story to your child, ask him or her to retell it. Or ask, “What happened first? What happened next? And then?” These practices help build focusing, listening, and sequencing skills.

Learning the alphabet is an important step in reading. Today, there are so many clever tools for introducing and reinforcing ABCs. As just one, the creative, interactive Bedtime Alphabet Night-Time Learning Flash Cards make learning fun by day and night. Use the handy, mini flashlight included in the package to shine light through the clever cutouts. Watch uppercase letters and shapes dance on floors, walls, and ceilings—at home, at the cottage, or in the tent. It’s a new twist on traditional and much-loved shadow play. Other activities include arranging the cards in alphabetical order or spelling out short words such as C-A-T. Animal Alphabet Pop-Up Flash Cards are another great way to make those letter-word-picture connections. Kids will love the colorful critters.

In the early years, reading readiness and actual reading involve many little pieces coming together. Once the basics are in place, they can be fine-tuned. Sue Leary, a first-grade teacher at Peach Plains Elementary School in Grand Haven, Michigan, has compiled a list of 17 reading strategies slightly older kids can use to improve their reading skills—and you, in helping them. While geared toward first-graders, they are also valuable for preschoolers and kindergartners.

This summer, turn beach time, travel time, and down time into reading and getting-ready-to-read time. Share YOUR favorite preschool reading activities here!