The method we use when working with early-emergent reading skills is called Guided Reading. Each child is working on their own goals as we read the book together. When we send home copies of a book we’ve been reading, you will find a note describing the reading strategies we focused on.
We begin each book by identifying the title and completing a picture-walk. A picture-walk includes slowly looking at each page in turn and identifying picture clues that might give us an idea what is happening in the story. The teacher also draws attention to pictures that indicate possible new or confusing vocabulary. For instance, a farm book we recently read contained a picture of a rooster crowing. All of the children guessed that it was a chicken. We discussed some identifying factors between roosters and hens so a final decision could be made based on more information.
Following the picture-walk, we return to the front cover of the book. We stretch our “reading finger” (our pointers) and place it under the first letter of the first word on the cover. Together, we read the title of the book. As we say each word, we lift our finger off of the page and then point at the next word. This helps the children differentiate between words, letters, and sentences. We continue through the title page and the story text.
Most of the books we read in Pre-K are repetitive and/or rhyming books that have an obvious pattern. The purpose for this is to provide the children with the opportunity to practice reading strategies in a controlled, obtainable manner. Pre-Kindergarten reading strategies might include concepts of print (which way to hold a book, which page to read first, the differences between letters, words, and sentences), using the pictures or first letter clues to figure out an unknown word, or even rereading when a part of a story doesn’t seem to match the rest. Our basic questions about text and story are, “Does it look right?” and “Does it make sense?” Non-readers and readers alike gain from this experience, taking away the information that builds upon their previous knowledge.
After reading the book together, each child reads the book quietly, out loud, so a teacher can hear. We have the children start at different times so we can listen to the children individually. While focused on one child reading, we can identify strategies that they are using successfully and those they need more support in.
A small copy that may come home is for you and your child to enjoy together. Encourage your child to read it to you. Remember, reading the pictures to create a story is interpreting symbols, just like deciphering letter combinations to decode words. Pictures are just symbols that we take for granted. Look to the accompanying skill lists to find what we are working on in class. Most importantly, let your child know how proud you are of their effort and interest.
We are sending the current strategies list simply to keep you informed about your child’s early reading development. Please do not consider it a mandate to begin homework. The most important learning support you can provide your child with is reading enjoyable stories and factual text aloud to them. Listening to a parent read teaches children about new vocabulary, story structure, and the conversation between the author and the reader. Let your child hear your thoughts as you read, “Ok, how could a spider really make a web that spelled ‘Some Pig!'” No matter how early or late a child begins reading, it is comprehension that makes the difference in learning ideas and content later in life. Talking about stories, facts, and ideas as we read together gives children practice in this most important skill.