My son is turning 6 in August and just finished kindergarten as one of the youngest in his class. He also had fairly bad far-sightedness that went undiagnosed and corrected until he was 4. As such, he missed out on a lot of fine motor skill development and early reading. He was never really interested in coloring and while he loves being read to (books are a major part of our family life), he has struggled to keep up with his peers.
Now I know that kindergarten is a silly time to be comparing your child to their classmates. Every child develops differently and we're far from having any serious problems. And don't get me started about No Child Left Behind and the fact that our child gets assessment report cards in Kindergarden...
So we want to take the opportunity that this upcoming summer provides to give him access to new kinds of books and activities that may stimulate or encourage him more than a classroom setting would. I'm not trying to pressure him in to practice, but instead provide him with opportunities to make learning and practice fun and see what - if anything - he takes to naturally.
Turning to my friends in the GeekDad community, what suggestions and advice do you have on what we could try. Are there good easy-reader comic books appropriate for a 6 year old? What about games (digital and in-real-life) that make writing more fun?
My wife and I really appreciate your comments. Thanks!
(Image: CC BY-SA Flickr User EraPhernalia Vintage)
I'd just like to put in a word for the idea that reading "late" is not the end of the world. And that -- aside from reading to your kids -- none of the advice folks have offered so far should be taken as one-size-fits-all.
As a homeschooler, I know a lot of kids who learned to read outside of school, using a wide variety of methods, or none at all. For myself, I had no interest in phonics (and neither did my kids). We never used flashcards or did exercises that separated the words themselves from their context.
The story I always tell when the subject turns to "teaching" kids to read is this: My oldest began reading fluently on his own at age 4 (the result of being plopped in front of Sesame Street when his brother was a baby). My youngest insisted that he would read when he was 7, and became miserable every time I tried to break out the Bob Books. One day in the middle of second grade, his older brother refused to get up early and read to him. When I went into their room, I found him sitting up in bed, reading "Calvin and Hobbes" to himself. Later that day, my Dad asked when the kid was going to learn to read. I grabbed a newspaper and handed it to him so he could read the front page to his Grandfather.
Both sons, by the way, took English courses at local colleges while still high school aged and received A's. The moral being, some kids just take a little longer, and there's not really an advantage to being "early." When kids catch up, they catch up fast!
My kid's (4) going to start K in a few months and so far knows all his letters ( he has trouble remembering "K" for some reason) and numbers. Ha can sound out a few three letter words and at this point is working on how phonetics work together to match a word that he's familiar with. What we do is make reading an integral part of his life and don't really think about making it "fun" for him. It's just something that he unquestionably has to do and at this point he understands that there are just some things that you "must" do, ( e.g., brushing teeth, putting things away, eating veggies, H20 and READING! ). Knowing that he HAS to do it actually takes the stress off of reading--there's no secret to it. I find that kids like to know what's expected of them because this is the stage where they start planning (or scheming as in the case of my son :-)). Reading will come with time--fast or slow, your kid'll get it as long as you're committed!
I think encouraging your son to write a sentence or two each day will definitely help develop his writing (if it doesn't put a strain on him). If he was writing a continuous story it would be even better. To make it fun, you could treat it like a project the whole family is working on, where everyone gets to suggest ideas, or each night you read what he's written and ask what's going to come next. He might not be jazzed by this idea at all, but for me as a kid I loved writing little stories if I knew my family was interested in reading or hearing about them. I wouldn't expect leaps and bounds of improvement from this, but it's a simple, free way to start up an enjoyment of writing and reading within your son, and to help him to start developing language skills on his terms. He's essentially learning by writing. Just an idea.
I'm only a college student, so I don't have much experience as a parent, or knowledge concerning how to teach kids to write, but I am an English major (so most of what I do is read and write), and the suggestion above is the kind of thing I enjoyed as a kid. My dad, Fred Lybrand had a hand in my development, obviously, and he's put together a writing course (certainly helps with reading too) on how to teach children writing. It's worth checking out, I know many children personally who have greatly benefited from it, myself included. It can be found at http://www.advanced-writing-resources.com
I hope any of that helps. Good luck with your son!
A lot of great ideas on here!!!!
Having taught for 12 years before becoming a stay at home dad, I worked with a wide variety of different leveled readers. Our son, who also struggled with reading, and still does, has learned a great variety of adaptations to use, as well as modifications that we have come up with. Just to add on to what has already been offered, the following is just a few of the things that we have done for BOTH of our children, and some suggestions.
Most noteably is the use of technology...Nothing gets a child interested, especially in the world of "geekdom" like technology! We have so many apps, many free, to pick from. We try to keep a variety and change the apps quite often. It is always fun to vary the level of ability, focus, area of concentration, etc.....I also have made a very simple powerpoint with some sight words on it for our daughter to use. For our son, I made a powerpoint with different state shapes and abbreviations. You click on the state, and up pops the name and capital. You can go a step further with either of these projects and record your voice to play on those slides as well. With the world at their fingertips, it is so important to use it! And as a link into the handwriting games, there are also apps that you can use that helps children trace letters on the i-pad. A very low tech activity, but VERY FUN, that children always have a blast with is to spray whip cream or shaving cream on a table and have the children practice writing words or letters on the table.
Good old flashcards also work. Leveled readers from your local library are also great books to get started on. The benefit with those is that it is an opportunity for a "high interest" spark for your child, which in turn develops a higher likelihood that more information will be retained.
Something else, you may want to try, especially on the computer, is to have your child look at the normal black letters on a white background, but then reverse it and put white letters on a black background. Certain children actually see better with the "old fashioned black board" view of words. Most are the opposite, but just something to try. We did for our kids and it didn't make a difference. :)
Our daughter loves to play games on pbskids.org and again, there are as many websites as there are apps, the main part is to find ones that work for your child. I have started a listing of websites that I have found beneficial, and I will try to start a thread on here for others to add to. Our son, who is a little different as he had a brain tumor 3 years ago, has a great deal of reading difficulties. One of the most beneficial tools that we have used is a website called LearningAlly. This is more for grades 2 and up, however has been a great tool for our son.
You already have a great start when I see the words in your post like stimulate, encourage, practice, fun......Especially over the summer, do activities, games, lessons, practicing that are enjoyable for your child, and are of HIGH INTEREST. One last thing is to "chunk" the opportunities, whereas keep these summer lessons short, but do them more often. It is proven that more information is retained when given over longer periods of time. When teaching, I always referred it to my students as a sponge and water. Does the sponge absorb more water when a lot is dumped on it at one time, or if a little water is distributed to it over a period of time? Same thing applies with children, reading, writing, and learning.
Keep it fun and GOOD LUCK!!!!