Get Ready for Reading!
Children already have great instincts for making meaning. They have accessed language by observing and imitating. Relax, tell her she already knows how to 'read'. Read the meaning in the pictures! Listen to and act out the story. Read her classic fairytales and stories. Make puppets by photocopying the pictures and sticking them on popsicle sticks for acting out of the story on CD. Audio books are a wonderful way to expose them to background stories. Get books on CD! Pair them with the text for 'quiet time'.
Reading Rules are not what makes meaning. Your child wants to read but is working really hard to do it 'cold'. The way she sees Mommy and Daddy do it. Sometimes when you tell kids that reading is the sight word flash cards or strictly the phoneme rules, it binds them into ignoring their own instincts of making meaning.
For young children, moving is meaning! The body is the first to ‘know’. Children need lots of acting out and hearing stories before adding the symbol 'word' to the ideas. There is a window of time when a child crosses the threshold from concrete experiences to being able to think abstractly about them. Give them lots of concrete acting out time.' Body to Brain” is how meaning is made. It will feed their ability to clearly visualize what happens in the story.
.Act it out, sing it, sign it, draw it! Make a ‘storyboard’ with pictures of the beginning, middle and end of a favorite fairytale. Add some alternate silly endings. Play charades!
"Through this 'book acting' , children play with the language of books and stories at a very personal level. (McGee,2003) They meet the characters of books "face to face" and gain deeper comprehension of the text."*
The process of reading is a cycle of meaning making. Phonics gets one started with saying the first part and then your background info allows one to guess the last part correctly and check if it makes sense. Enjoyment and 'Motivation to Know' move this cycle happily along. Ask her, "What do you think comes next?" "What pictures does the story make in your head?"
The reader applies background knowledge of sounds, checks the letter, gets one's mouth ready to anticipate the sound of the letter and fills in with the context or possible rhymes. Knowing that, Ariel is singing, for example; the word may be daughter to rhyme with water. 'Reading' the pictures to glean the story is also a legitimate way to gain background knowledge and make guesses. Phonics, Context, Background Knowledge, All of these ways of making meaning are legitimate reading skills.
Reward what she already knows. Is there a song she knows by heart and loves to sing? Type it out, she could 'read' it while singing. She will learn sight words that repeat over and over. She will learn what to expect in the sentence or refrain in the song. She will apply some basic phonics knowledge to figure out some new words. The phrasing in the song will help her connect phrases and make pictures from them. This reading by phrases increases fluency and speed and allows a reader to visualize more quickly what the story is saying.
Use Strengths to Bolster Weakness. Right minded thinkers are more holistic readers. They will use their knowledge of story and sentence structure. Left minded thinkers leverage the 'decoding' and sight word code breaking rules more extensively but they both make best guesses and check it. Encourage this! Ask (alternately)," Does it sound right to you? "Does it look right to you? "Does it make sense with the story?" This best guess plus checking cycle will serve them well as they fluidly make meaning throughout new stories.
Reading Feeds the Whole Brain! Reading books they chose will make them a reader. In fact, reading fiction will develop their entire brain. This fascinating article by Annie Murphy Paul presents the findings of neuroscience that show "the brain does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated." Fabulous!