Apr 6 parenting - reading to toddlers

April 05, 2001

Preparing your toddler for reading

Teaching your child - By Lisa Tedrick Prejean

Sarah Miller of Hagerstown recently sent an e-mail asking how parents can prepare a toddler for reading.

Miller says her 2-year-old daughter, Grace, is expressing interest in letters and words.

After receiving an alphabet puzzle for her birthday in October, Grace brought it to her mother and said, "I want to learn my letters."

Miller has been reading aloud to her daughter and working on letter recognition, but wants to know what the next step should be.

She's heard about "Hooked on Phonics" and wonders if the program is worth the $300 investment.

The program, according to, is a balanced approach to teaching reading that combines phonics instruction with 50 illustrated books.

While programs such as this have merit, parents shouldn't impose too much structure on a toddler, says Valerie Kaufmann, lead kindergarten teacher for the all-day kindergarten program at Marshall Street School in Hagerstown.


"At the age of 2, if you start on something like that too early, you could turn them off," Kaufmann says, adding that the emphasis should be on having fun.

Parents who would like to try "Hooked on Phonics" before making the investment can sign out a copy at Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown.

The library, at 100 S. Potomac St., will have a Books for Babies seminar Saturday, April 7, at 11 a.m. Parents can learn about sharing language and books with infants.

Parents will also be given a list of "100 Picture Books Everybody Ought to Know," says Jeff Ridgeway, a librarian in the children's department.

Ridgeway says the seminar is designed for parents of children ages 18 months and younger but that he can recommend age-appropriate books for other ages as well.

There are a lot of things parents can do to prepare a child for reading, most of which are free or cost very little.

Here are suggestions from Ridgeway, Kaufmann and Judy Fox, a first-grade teacher at Old Forge Elementary School, east of Hagerstown.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read aloud to your child every day. Establish a bedtime story ritual. Make it fun, playful, relaxing. Don't rush. Stop to point out shapes, colors and pictures. Make comments such as, "Oh, the duck is in the pond. Do you see the duck? Do you see the pond? I hear a 'p' in pond."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read to a certain point in a book and then say, "I'm going to peek at what happens next. What do you think is going to happen?" Encourage the child to guess. This provides a child with a sense of how stories work.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Talk to your toddler frequently. Share observations about colors, shapes and signs. Point out words on clothing.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Set up a reading and writing area for your child with paper, crayons and books.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Schedule weekly trips to the library. Participate in story hours.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Make a "word box." Help your child cut words off empty cereal boxes or other items you're going to discard. Decorate a shoe box and put the words in it. Play a game with the words: Say each word as you pull it out of the box.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> When you buy a toy for a child, consider buying a complementary book. (i.e. Buying a truck? Pick up a book about trucks.)

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Check out these Web sites: - Teaching methods and materials for grades kindergarten through three from the husband-and-wife teaching team of Robert and Marlene McCracken. - Bruce Murray, "The Reading Genie," an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Auburn University, covers such topics as how children learn to read words, how to help children tune into the sounds in words and how to teach blending. - Site of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. - Early childhood activities, arts and crafts, experts answering e-mailed questions, reading center, etc. Sponsored by Discount School Supply.

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