Teaching My Baby To Read

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ABC Activity and Assessment

Jenna and I bought these ABC stickers at the craft-store a few days agof for $3.  They are absolutely awful for toddlers, in that they are hard to take off the sheet, and have little holes to punch out to make the letters look right.  Oh yeah, and they are choking hazards!  But if you get past all of that, then it does become a fun activity to do with a 22 month old.  We sat at Jenna’s little table and chairs for about twenty minutes punching out letters and sticking them places, including her paper on occasion.

I started out trying to make simple words with her, like her name and some -at words.  Clearly she wasn’t ready for this, so I moved to to simple letter and sound identification.  On that, she totally rocked!  Jenna now knows almost all of her uppercase letters, and can supply their sounds if you sing the song from the Leap Frog Letter Factory video.  “The A says ah, they A says ah, Every letter makes a sound the A says ah.”  This turned out to be a really good way to conduct an accurate assessment of what she knows.  I feel like this was $3 well spent!

When it’s okay to point

Here’s an easy tip teachers know, that is easy to do during read aloud time.  Track the words with your finger!  It’s really simple, but sometimes hard to remember.  Tracking words with your finger is so important becauseit shows children that words on the page correspond to words that you read aloud.  It is critical towards teaching children to read.

When you hear (very real) stories about children teaching themselves to read without any parent input at extremely young ages like two or three, this is might be one of the explanations for why that happens.  Some parents just naturally track with their finger while they read, and some don’t.  I don’t track every single book I read to Jenna, because my hand would cramp up, but I do make sure to track at least a few books a day with her.

Why I Love Lowercase Letters

Today was day two of Jenna watching “Rusty and Rosy’s Letter Sounds Songs”, which is all lowercase letters.  She got halfway through it before she began jumping up and down on the couch and generally fooling around.  But…she wouldn’t let me turn the program off.  As a teacher, this didn’t bother me, because I know that kids often pay better attention when they are moving around.  They’ve even done studies to prove this.  So we went ahead and watched the whole thing.

A big misconception about teaching children to read is that you need to start with capital letters first.  Yes, we did this for a few weeks with “Rusty and Rosy’s ABCs and Such”, but that was probably enough.  When it comes to learning to read, lowercase letters are the most important.  Think about it.  When was the last book you read that was in all caps?

This is actually is one of my big beefs with “Sesame Street”.  The letter of the day is always in capital letters, which is ridiculous.  When “Super Why” first started out on PBS the first season featured capital letters too, but now I believe it is lowercase.  (I Haven’t seen it in a while to verify that.)

So don’t sweat the capital letters too much.  Jenna knows about half of them now, but it’s time to move on to the main event.

ABC time, twenty minutes a day

Jenna is 19 months now, but a few weeks ago, when she was still just a wee young 18 months, we started ABC time on the tv.  For right now, this means watching a very old fashioned video called  Rusty and Rosie’s ABCs and Such.  We happen to have been given these videos from my Mother-in-law, but you can probably check them out from your local library for free.
Yes, yes, I know tv can be evil!   Please don’t blast me about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that children under two shouldn’t watch television.  It’s not like I’m sitting my toddler in from of “Star Wars the Clone Wars” and then going off into the living room to drink a margarita.  It’s not like that.
What I do, is I sit down with Jenna and watch as much of the video as she has the attention span at this point to get through. At first it was just two or three minutes, but we’ve been building up to about twenty.  Each time a new letter or sound comes on, I make a big deal about.  “Oh, that’s the letter S!  Sssssssssss.”  Sometimes Bruce sits with us, and plays along.
When we first started three weeks ago, Jenna  could recognize and say “O”, said “Bruce” for “B” and “mama” for “M and W”.  Today, she can recognize, say or point out the capital letters: “A, B, C, D, F, M, O, P, Q, S, U, X and Z.”  Pretty sweet!  The only other things we have been doing are reading lots of picture books (about 30-45 minutes a day, but not all at one time), and also reading some basic ABC books.
At this point, I’m going to move Jenna on to video two, “Letter Sound Songs”.  Even though she’s not demonstrating that she knows the whol alphabet, it’s time to move on.  I don’t want her to get bored, and so we’re moving on to lower case letters.
I looked in Bruce’s baby book and I had written that Bruce could say his ABCs by 18 months.  I think he also could identify them too, if I’m remembering right.  It really did just take a couple of weeks with that video.  Of course, every child is different, so it’s okay that Jenna is learning at her own pace.