My 5 year old daughter reads on about a 3rd or 4th grade reading level. As a former teacher, people would always comment that "you must have worked a lot with her." I honestly can't say that I did. I wasn't sitting down studying sight words every night and going over letter sounds. I think part of it is nature (can your child genetically get your love of reading?! Since I love to read so much) and part of it is nurture - just the way we've raised her. It will be interesting to see if my 3 year old son becomes an early reader as well. He also loves books, so I think we're off to a good start. Some of the things that we've done include:
* Reading every night. Since our kids were babies, my husband and I have read to them every night before bed. As part of our before bed routine, 3 stories are read. My daughter gets a pick, my son gets a pick, and mommy and daddy share a pick. In future posts I'll share some of our favorites!
*Visit the library. My house is overloaded with books. We still make weekly trips to the library though. The kids get to play with puzzles, read books there, and pick books to take home. Over the summer, and beginning once my son finishes daycare, we go to storytime. We also borrow movies, CDs, and even Wii games.
*Play children's music. My children love to sing and dance. We have an ipod of kids music that was played in the car constantly when they were younger. As annoying as children's music can be (and there are some really annoying songs out there!) a lot of it rhymes and provides learning opportunites for kids. My parents bought my kids personalized name CDs for Christmas a couple of years ago. Only over the past year or so did they really get into them, and then they were on repeat over, and over. And as much as they wanted to make me pull my hair out, it introduced my 3 year old son to rhyming and counting to 20 - great learning skills!
*Reinforce what they are learning in school. My daughter's preschool teacher was excellent! She gave my daughter sight word flash cards to go over at home. We would go through five or so of them a night. But more importantly, we would apply them to our night time reading. If she recognized the sight word "I", then when we were reading a book, I would have her read "I" every time we came to it. Then I would compliment her on her great reading. Every few days I'd add another word for her to read. This helped her make the connection that words have meaning and are not just printed on cards for her to memorize.
*Choose the TV programs they watch. I am NOT one of those parents that don't believe kids should watch TV. When I was pregnant with my son, the Wiggles were my lifesaver. I'd get home from work and take a much-needed 20 minute nap while my daughter was entertained. I am selective in what my kids watch though. We've moved on from The Wiggles, Sesame Street (though I may get my son back into this one, now that he's going to be home all day with me), Blues Clues, and yes even that annoying purple dinosaur, Barney. Now our current faves include The Fresh Beat Band, Super Why, Dora, Diego, and The Cat in the Hat. I'll go through the tivo each week and pick 2 shows to record each day. When they get home from school they get to take turns picking which show they're going to watch that day.
These are some of the ways that we promote reading in our house. Please feel free to share some other ideas!