Chapter 22: Words, Words, Everywhere!
(Click for the Complete Online Parent Reading Guide)
Get ’em started and watch ’em go!
Most teachers will tell you that kids who are surrounded by words, books and letters early in life learn to read sooner and better than their peers. And studies back that up! One, published by Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child, found that children exposed to reading early in life showed an increase in vocabulary and cognitive ability – brain power! This drove their interest in more reading, creating a snowball effect. More reading led to – you guessed it – a bigger vocabulary and more brain power, which led to even more reading. Get your child off on the right track, it seems, and then all you’ll need to do is sit back and watch him go!
A world filled with words
While immersing your child in a world of words works best if you start in infancy, it’s never too late to get going! Here are some easy ways to surround your child with words and speed him on his way to becoming a powerhouse reader.
Fill the fridge – The front of it, that is. Buy magnetic letters and words, and stick them all over the front of your refrigerator. Don’t even tell your child they’re for him. Just start creating simple words and phrases of your own. Read your creations aloud and laugh at them if they’re silly. Pretty soon, he will want to join in.
Tablet apps – Most kids love to play with their parents’ electronic devices. If you have a tablet or smartphone, do a little research and find some word games. There are lots of them out there, and most of them can be downloaded for free. Whenever he begs to play with your device, make sure one of the word games is front and center.
Word puzzle books – Word searches, letter jumbles and crossword puzzles are word-game staples. You can still find books filled with these at most grocery stores. If you have a computer, there are even online versions that your child can play in real time or print out.
Games – Start a family game night, or if games are already part of your routine, then add in some that use words or reading. The best known example, of course, is Scrabble. There are even junior versions of this long-time favorite with preprinted words on the board. This works great for kids who aren’t ready to come up with words on their own; they only need to collect and match up the letters for words already in front of them. Other really engaging reading games include:
- Bananagrams – This game comes with a cloth banana filled with word tiles. There are dozens of different ways to play the game, so it’s easy to scale it up or down to fit your child’s current reading level.
- Rory’s Story Cubes – While this fast-paced dice game doesn’t actually have any words, it’s still a great reading game. Why? Because once your child throws the dice with six different actions drawn on each of them, he must put the dice in order and come up with a story that matches them. This is a great way to practice the order in which stories – and therefore books – are told. You can help your child develop his story by asking questions like “What happened first?” and “Then what happened?” Add a bit of fun by letting him act out the story once he’s done.
- Hidden Hints Mystery Word Game – This game, which comes packed in a detective’s briefcase, lets kids become amateur sleuths while learning how to use context clues while reading. Each card has a picture on it and several clues. Players use the clues to guess what the picture shows.
- Scrabble Slam – This action-packed card game pits players against each other as they try to empty their hands of cards by changing the word in front of them one card at a time. Change the “T” in "GATE" to an “M,” for instance, and you get the word “GAME.” Kids love trying to slam their cards down faster than their opponents.
National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “The Effects of Early Reading With Parents on Developing Literacy Skills,” http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu