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Reading to Your Pre K Kids

mother and pre-k child reading togetherStarting kindergarten is a monumental day in any child's life, and what we do "Pre K" to get them ready is a crucial ingredient in how they will do. As parents of Pre K kids, we certainly want our children to be prepared as possible for this big day. However, many of us with very young children (babies, toddlers, and young preschoolers) may not be thinking much about preparing our kids for starting kindergarten.

Did you know that reading to your children early and often helps prepare even our youngest for kindergarten? Yes, a simple and effective way to prepare our children for formal schooling is to read together on a daily basis. Children who are routinely read to Pre K are much more academically prepared to learn than children who were not read to - AND - children who have been routinely read to enter kindergarten prepared to learn from the very first day! There is no to catch them up on skills.

So how does reading aloud together prepare our children for kindergarten? When we read, think about all the Pre K language and vocabulary our children are being exposed to PRIOR to starting kindergarten. The single biggest indicator for academic success in kindergarten is the number of vocabulary words a child enters with.

In other words, it is not what they learn during the year, it's what they already know as they start kindergarten. There is a direct correlation between success and vocabulary. The greater the vocabulary, the greater the success.

This makes sense when we realize that most of the instructions given to kindergarteners (and for several more academic years as well) is given orally. Children who are read to have a much larger vocabulary than children who haven't been read to. Therefore, children who have been read to are much more likely to not only understand and comprehend what the teacher is saying, but to understand and comprehend what the teacher is asking. A student cannot possibly do well academically if he or she cannot understand what the teacher is saying and what the requested task at hand is. A child who struggles in kindergarten may very well be setting the tone for many more academic years to come.

The second important way reading to our children helps prepare them Pre K is through the understanding and background knowledge they develop with each and every book we read. When we read to our children, we aren't just reading isolated words and isolated sentences. What makes reading to our children so powerful is the contextual meaning they gain from it. Pre K Reading 2 Children take away little bits and pieces from every book read to them. They soak up vocabulary in a specific contextual situation. The more we read, the more vocabulary and the more knowledge and meaning our children start kindergarten with. But what does "contextual understanding" really mean?

Let's look at a simple example using books about farm animals to help explain this Pre K reading concept. With each book we read, our children learn and develop an understanding about farms and their animals.

Children learn that:

  • sheep, cows, horses, pigs, chickens, roosters, ducks, cats, and dogs are common farm animals.
  • sheep go "baa," are wooly, eat grass, and live in pastures and meadows.
  • cows go "moo," can be black, black & white, or brown, give us milk, eat grass, and also live in pastures and meadows.
  • horses go "neigh," play in fields, eat hay, and sleep in red buildings called barns.
  • pigs go "oink," are pink, like to squeal & roll in the mud, eat slop, and have curly-q tails.
  • chickens go "cluck," lay eggs, and peck the ground for food. Roosters go "cock-a-doodle-do" to start the day on the farm.
  • ducks go "quack," are yellow, flap their wings, and like water & to swim in ponds.
  • cats go "meow, are all kinds of colors, like to sleep in the barn, chase mice, and have a litter of kittens.
  • farm dogs go "woof" and work on the farm by rounding up or herding the sheep.
  • farmers tend to all the farm animals, work long hard days, grow corn and other vegetables, and use tractors and farm equipment to plow, harvest, and work the farm.

Certainly all this information seems simple enough to adults. But we must remember that our children aren't adults who have had the years of experience we have had. If a teacher is giving a lesson about any aspect of farms or farm animals, it makes a significant difference in learning, understanding, and especially academic performance to a kindergartener who already possesses the Pre K basic, background knowledge as shown in the example above.

This simple example can be extrapolated to all the books we read to our Pre K children. Think about all the knowledge and understanding we are teaching and exposing our children to PRIOR to their starting kindergarten.

Pre K Reading 3 There is so much that reading can do for our kids. There are so many significant benefits in addition to preparing for kindergarten that can be derived from Pre K reading. Did you know that reading to our children also develops their listening skills and attention spans which also play important roles in orally-based instruction?

Although many of us may be years away from that big day of watching our children start kindergarten, isn't it reassuring to know that something so simple and so pleasurable as sharing a book can make such a difference?

"Whether you think you can, or you
think you can't, you're right."
--Henry Ford


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