Summer is upon us! And while that’s great news for most, if you’re a parent of a graduating preschooler, the arrival of summer may have you starting to wonder what you should be doing to be sure your child is ready for kindergarten. While we often think of kindergarten readiness as knowing the letters of the alphabet and how to count to ten, there are other very important ways that you can help your child prepare for the first days of school.
This is the first in my four-part series of simple things you can do this summer to help ensure the success of your child’s transition to kindergarten.
Getting Ready to Read is Much More Than Knowing Letters
A child’s ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in words, called phonological awareness, is a strong predictor of early reading readiness and long term success in reading. While it definitely helps to have children familiar with letters and letter sounds, it’s also extremely important to tune them in to the sounds that make up words.
We often take phonological awareness for granted because older generations grew up listening to nursery rhymes and playing word games, but for today’s kindergartners nursery rhymes are less familiar. As a result, they haven’t heard rhyming words and played with saying and creating them. Developing the familiarity with the sounds in words can be both fun and playful while strengthening vital skills that are often assessed early in the kindergarten year.
• Read rhyming books
Start by reading lots of books to your child that have rhyming words in them. Use a playful, sing-song voice that emphasizes the rhymes as well as the rhythm of the story. As your child becomes familiar with the story, read all but the last rhyme in each rhyming pair to allow your child to naturally fill in the missing word.
• Play rhyming games
Once your child is familiar with rhyming words, play impromptu rhyming games while you’re driving in the car or going for a walk. You say a word and your child makes up a rhyme or you collaboratively come up with as many rhymes for a word as you can. Brainstorming made up rhyming words can be really silly and lots of fun too—and is tremendously worthwhile for your child’s developing literacy.
• Experiment with the beginning sounds
Playing games with the beginning and ending sounds in words is very helpful as well. Come up with all the words that start with a specific sound. While walking around the supermarket, for example, search for all the foods that begin with the sound for P. Note that the emphasis is on the sound, not the letter. It’s important for children to be familiar with the idea of the sound of the letter as distinguishable from the name of the letter, so be sure to use the word “sound” when talking about sounds and use the word “letter” when talking about letters.
• Listen for ending sounds
Hearing the final sound in a word (/t/ in the word “cat” for example) is a little bit more challenging and should be left until your child is more confident with rhyming words and beginning sounds.
• Clap out syllables
Use the names of your child’s family and friends. For each syllable that is heard, the child claps. For example, while your child says “Robert,” she claps once while saying “Ro” and again while saying “bert” (two syllables). For Caroline, she would clap once while saying “Car,” once while saying “o” and once while saying “line” (three syllables).
Do you remember Raffi’s songs, Apples and Bananas and Willoughby Wallaby Woo? These are great songs for tuning children into the sounds in words and playing with manipulating those sounds. Enjoy singing these songs together as a family.
Children entering kindergarten are often naturally interested in playing games with the sounds in words, so have fun with your child. These activities don’t need to be stressful or a chore. And try to avoid doing too much at once. Enjoy one activity initially and then cycle in others as your child demonstrates confidence.
More posts in this series will be coming soon. Subscribe to my blog to get updates about how you can support your child’s transition to kindergarten and much more!