June 1, 2022 — By Wendy Sachs

As we are happily spending days ending a school year and dreaming of fun playful days, some parents and caregivers feel pressure to set up a schedule of activities that will get a child ready for the next school year. This is a huge pressure especially on parents who have kids entering into kindergarten next year.

Need to Read?

Developmentally, most children younger than 6 years old are not ready to learn to read. While there may be societal pressure for kids to read at 4 or 5 (prior to kindergarten), for almost all children, this is too early for us to push kids to learn to read.

Better Approach – Get Ready!

Instead we should focus on reading readiness. There are many skills that we put into place before children learn to read. Let’s take a look at being READY to read.

Physical Signs

Physically, there are many ways a body must be ready to read. Watch for your child to be able to skip using opposite sides of their body or to swing one arm while hopping on the other foot. Can they cross the midline of their body? This demonstrates a knowledge of and connection to using the left and right sides of their body- important to know for reading. Plus it shows their brain’s left and right brain sides are working together. Watch for your kiddo being able to balance steadily and for them to track a small toy from right to left. They need to be able to focus and move their eyes with text on a page.

Building Blocks of Reading

On the language front, can they retell a familiar story? Can they read their own name? Can they play with language by making rhymes? All these language skills are building blocks of reading. They also need to be able to identify all the letters by sound or name. They may not be 100% able to match sounds with letters, but they should be able to identify the shapes of all the letters by name before starting to work on reading words. Kids should also have a good sense of one to one correspondence- knowing that each word on the page corresponds to the word that is read and that each word has a meaning.

Social Signs

There is a huge social aspect to learning to read. A child must know how to take turns, cooperate and have some self-control to be in school small groups or activities that teach reading. Being able to share a discussion with a peer or adult is also important.

Sense of Self

Children must also have a good sense of self and how they fit into the world so they can comprehend the stories they read. Can they truly understand characters and actions and how the stories relate to them?

Truly there is much to learn before you begin the real work of learning to read. And no matter what well-meaning people say, there is no reason to rush. After all, the most important thing to share with your child is the LOVE of reading, the joy of it all. That will help a child be a lifelong learner and an excited reader!!