By Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Hanes, DO
Would you like to learn easy ways to teach active kids to read? Here are some fun techniques I have used to teach my children. They’re so enjoyable that other children request we play these games during play dates. But do they work? Decide for yourself. My daughter began reading and comprehending chapter books in kindergarten, and my son just turned four and is reading books on his own now as well. All without any fuss or endless sessions of sounding out each word.
The key, I believe, is making the process fun and using every opportunity to teach word recognition. With this method, they internalize the patterns from their experience rather than memorizing rules. Additionally, incorporating actions helps keep them focused and eager for more.
Jump to Word: This is a game I created to make reading fun and use my children’s fondness of jumping off furniture. Place a step-stool in the middle of a carpeted area. Then write words on notecards and place two or three in front of the step stool. For a young child select very different cards, like “baby” and “hug.” Next, request they “jump to the word hug.” For early readers, emphasize the beginning sound to help them chose. As they advance in reading add more cards with similar sounding words, like; “giraffe,” “garage,” and “gerbil.” Other advanced variations add another step of synthesis like, saying the word in Spanish or American Sign Language. You could add facts like, “Jump to the card of the animal with a long neck.” The options are virtually endless. My children, and their friends, truly line up for this simple game.
Magnet Marathon: This game requires a metal cookie sheet (the inexpensive kind) and magnet letters. Place a group of letters in one area of the house, like on the refrigerator, and then a cookie sheet in another room. Ask the child to spell a word like, “cat.” The physical part is he can only bring one letter at a time to the board. For young readers, you can write the word out and have him bring each letter, identifying it as it is placed on the cookie sheet. For advanced children, make the words more complicated or use a stop watch to “beat the clock.” This is a great activity to occupy them while you’re busy in the kitchen.
Sticky Words: Using sticky notes, you can do similar activities to the magnet marathon or take it to a different level. Write different words on the notes and stick them to the wall. Then ask for categories of words, such as, “May I have all of the words that are animals?” Thus, it feels more like a categorizing game than a reading game.
Read Everywhere: This might seem obvious, but the impact is huge. Point out signs and words everywhere you go. When your child begins to recognize the golden arches have a name, that is reading. It is associating a symbol with a word. Praise them for reading. As they advance, allow them to be in charge of following the signs to “baggage” at the airport or play scrabble with their Cheez-Its. (There was previously a promotion and each cracker had a letter on it.)
Sign Language: I give my highest praise to the DVD series, Signing Time. Through beautiful songs and funny animation the series teaches children hundreds of signs. During the program, they see the word written as it is said and signed. Additionally, many of the signs are simply the word spelled, so the sign for zoo is z-o-o. This provides a very early start that words are made of letters. Before my son was two years old, he substituted the sign “elevator” for “alligator,” making a joke. It is incredible to realize a child so young could, without any prompting, comprehend those words sound alike. It laid an important foundation for language and reading. When the kids are older and ask how to spell words, I usually finger spell it to them. This practice allows them to hear only their voice when spelling and seeing the sign helps create a memorable impression for visual learners.
These simple techniques can have a profound impact on your child’s reading. At the minimum, they are fun games they use the boundless energy and satiate the boundless curiosity of a child. Read On!