Welcome to Day 3 the Ready for Kindergarten: 30 Days of Activities, Ideas, and Learning Fun series. Taking a few minutes each day to help prepare your child for kindergarten can make a world of difference.

I’m pretty excited about today’s idea, and it’s a big one! Today’s focus is on pre-reading.

One of my very favorite things about being a kindergarten teacher was seeing my kids come in with little to no reading ability, and seeing them leave able to read a wide variety of picture books and readers. (Some were even reading chapter books!) Watching and teaching a child to read has been one of my life’s greatest joys. These activities and ideas are going to help you build your child’s confidence so that he/she will approach learning to read with JOY and without fear or anxiety.

A child’s first attempts at reading should be POSITIVE. Your child needs to feel like they ARE a reader. The first time their teacher puts a decodable reader in front of them, they need to believe deep down in their bones that they CAN read it! To facilitate building your little pre-reader’s confidence, I want to give you a list of ideas to help them on the beginning of their reading journey. (And oh what an exciting journey it is!!)

(I could write a week-long series on Pre-Reading! I actually give whole talks/lectures/seminars on Pre-Reading! There are SO many great ideas. I will give you a few today, and we will re-visit more later!)

Environmental Print Cards

This is one of my favorite ideas because not only is it so easy, but kids LOVE it! These were a hit in my classroom and with my own children. To make a set of environmental print cards, open up a Word document and Google. Start using Google Image to seek out pictures that represent the brands, stores, products, etc that your family uses/is around/is in your community, etc.

Place all of your icons in your document, and print it out. Then, cut out the squares and glue them onto strips of construction paper. I put four pictures on each rectangle. I try to choose icons and logos that my child will have a good degree of familiarity with or that he/she will see frequently as we are out and about.

The environmental print cards serve two main purposes:

1. These cards help your child feel SUCCESSFUL as a reader. They become SO excited when they realize just how many words they can already cards (1 of 1)recognize and read. When your child sees and can read “Target” or “Walt Disney”, they begin to see themselves as a reader. They become confident and recognize that they have the ability to read. (It is SO much fun to watch them shout out, “Hey! That says Diet Coke!” and see just how pleased they are!)

*Since this is a confidence building activity, and not an accuracy activity, don’t correct your child. If they say, “yogurt” instead of “Yoplait,” accept their answer. While they are not giving an accurate read of the word, they have made an important connection. They have recognized that the  word represents a concept. If they were second graders, I’d say to correct them. For now, celebrate the connections being made and the literacy foundation being poured.

2. The cards help your child become aware of environmental print (ie-the print that surrounds them in their environment!) After using the cards even once or twice, you’ll begin to see your child become more aware of the words on the packages in your cupboard, the signs you pass on the road, etc. They’ll call out, “That says Michaels!” or you’ll find them reading the names of all of the cereals in your pantry….which leads me to my next activity….

Letter  Hunt

Prior to reading words, your child will need to become aware of letters and sounds. A great way to get them looking for and noticing print is to play Letter Hunt. On your next drive or trip the store, print off the following printable, and tell your child to put on their eagle eyes. Have your child cross off each letter as they find it. Encourage your child to look for letters on license plates, signs, buildings, labels, packages, etc. They will begin to notice that words and letters are all around them. This helps them understand just how important reading is!

As they notice the letters, they will begin to 1) Ask what the letters are if they don’t yet know the letter names and/or 2) Begin to piece together what the letter sounds are. As they spot the “D” in the “Dairy” sign at the grocery store, they will ask what the word says. When you answer “Dairy” they will begin to understand that D says “du” as in dairy. They will begin to see patterns and put pieces of the reading puzzle together in their head. This may seem subtle, but this is a huge foundational piece.

Kids often glom onto this idea and begin asking what all the words they notice say. Though it may become annoying, answer them as often as you can!

*If your child is a bit further along, challenge them with this activity by having them find an object that begins with each letter, rather than finding the letter itself. (Ie- Gas station for G, Bread for B, etc.)

Letter Hunt Printable

“Read” to Me

One of my favorite pre-reading activities is to have your child “read” to you. Choose any picture book and have your child “read” the book to you, using the illustrations to help them tell the story. This activity helps your child understand that illustrations have meaning. Using the illustrations is one of the best reading strategies emergent readers use when trying to decode words. (Always let your child linger over the pictures in a story! The pictures give them meaningful clues about the words on the page!)

If your child gets frustrated and tells you they don’t know how to read, model for them. (And yes, model by not reading the words….tell a story just using the pictures!) Remember that this is not an accuracy activity…this is a pre-kindergarten activity designed to build their confidence as a reader, and clue them in to a few important strategies and concepts.

Here is a little video of my son “reading” a book before he knew how to read the words. He felt successful and happy as he used the pictures to read the book. While he wasn’t reading the words, he was gaining an understanding that the pictures mean something and represent words on the page. As kids begin to notice the pictures, they begin to look for words that might match up. If they see the picture of a pizza, they will look for the word in the sentence that starts with a p.

I will continue to post pre-reading ideas throughout the summer as this is such a HUGE idea. Children are not made readers overnight. Becoming a reader is gradual and happens as children begin to piece together ideas and concepts.I hope you will make some time this summer to help your pre-reader take the steps they need to become a reader!

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for Day 3 of our Ready for Kindergarten: 30 Days of Activities, Ideas, and Learning Fun series!

In case you missed it:

Day One: Scissors

Day Two: Name Writing and Name Recognition

*Bekki Lindner is available to speak at your next event on the subject of pre-reading and/or kindergarten readiness! She loves to share ideas and activities, and equip parents with tools and strategies to help their child learn!