By Maya Payne Smart From the pediatrician’s office to parenting magazine columns, numerous voices tout the benefits of regularly reading aloud to young children for language development. But storytime quantity is just part of the equation. How parents read to kids (not just how often) matters too, and I don’t mean the pacing and performance qualities of reading aloud. No matter how thrilling the story or a parent’s delivery, a verbatim front-to-back reading of a book leaves out critical . . .
By Chrysta Naron Matching letters to sounds is a crucial step on the road to reading. It’s a seemingly simple skill that actually requires a whole lot of practice to master. Every app and workbook alike asks kids to draw a line from a picture to the letter it begins with. This literacy activity is everywhere for a reason—it works. But I think we can upgrade this classic to make it much more fun and interactive. Given how much repetition kids need to commit the sounds of all 26 . . .
By Chrysta Naron William Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” Letters! That’s what’s in a name. As children begin to read and write, they’re often eager to learn to write their own name. They love discovering what letter it begins with (and every letter that follows!). A name graph is a simple, yet brilliant, way to teach young kids to spell their names, and help them practice writing a variety of uppercase and lowercase letters at the same time. This simple literacy idea . . .
By Chrysta Naron Playing Sound Search is a delightful way for kids to learn letters and their sounds. Plus, this fun alphabet game engages children during days cooped up inside. They’ll crawl, climb, run, and spin looking for just the right items to match their letters. Reading letters and practicing their corresponding sounds can sometimes feel a little abstract for kids. They can make the right sound when shown a letter on its own, but learning to isolate that same letter sound in . . .
By Chrysta Naron Let’s face it, letter names and letter sounds don’t always match up in a way that makes sense. Judging by their names, C should sound like /s/ and G should sound like /j/. Meanwhile, when X starts a word, it makes the same /z/ sound as the letter Z. This can be very confusing for early readers. They need constant reinforcement to internalize these nuances. Rather than sitting down and drilling letters every day—endlessly drawing lines from the letter C to a clip-art . . .
By Chrysta Naron Word families, sets of rhyming words that share the same ending spelling and pronunciation, are great tools for helping kids recognize patterns and build awareness of the sound structure of words. For example, the “at” word family includes words like “cat,” “hat,” “sat,” and so on. Word families are wonderful because they teach two skills at once. First, children learn to connect certain letter combinations with particular ending sound chunks or rimes. This can help them . . .
By Karen Williams Showing support for independent bookstores is a noble cause, and a common way to do so is to simply visit the bookstore itself. But you can show support from home, too. Whether your goal is to avoid the crowds or get to know a bookstore outside your region, there are several ways you can support your favorite bookstore virtually. Buy books from online storefronts. Now more than ever, your favorite independent bookstores need your business. Many bookstores have the . . .
Wordless picture books are excellent tools for practicing reading fluency. This crucial literacy skill is defined as the ability to read a text smoothly with rhythm, expression, and appropriate emotion—and it’s a key indicator of reading comprehension. I first came across this novel use of wordless picture books in The Megabook of Fluency by Tim V. Rasinski and Melissa Cheesman Smith, and it struck me as a great example of building crucial reading skills without directly reading. As such, . . .
By Karen Williams By nature, children are learners and discoverers. But there are some crucial skills—like letter shapes, names, and sounds—that parents should teach rather than wait for kids to sort out on their own. And the more fun and light-hearted the approach, the better. Try this neighborhood scavenger hunt activity to engage kids and have family fun outdoors. Getting outside, moving around, and boosting letter engagement is a win-win-win. Benefits include: Affordability. You . . .