Toddlers and Preschoolers have a thirst to learn as much as they can. They are born with a natural desire to understand the world around them. Why not use this time to foster non-fiction reading skills?
The boys and I go to the library at least twice a month. The first several trips were just to get acquainted with the library, allowing the boys to explore. But one particular trip changed the way I approached my strategy with teaching reading to my children.
If you follow this blog or know me personally, you are aware of the fact that Evan LOVES sports. I think you can technically say he is obsessed with not just a sport but ALL sports. We were getting reading for a visit to the library when Evan starting talking about baseball, and it was like you saw the lightbulb go off.
"Mommy, does the library have books on baseball?"
I enthusiastically replied to him that, yes the library has baseball books, and we should ask the librarian where those books are. It was absolutely adorable the scene that played out at the library. As soon as the doors opened (Evan likes to "open" the doors for me by pushing the handicapped button), he ran to the information desk and asked the librarian as politely as I have ever seen him,
"Excuse me, do you have books on baseballs?"
The librarian looked at me slightly dumbfounded and immediately replied to Evan that they certainly did have baseball books. She then asked him what type of books he was looking for, then glanced up at me with a quizzical look on her face. I mouthed to her that it didn't matter what type of baseball books to lead him too (she was concerned that the books they had were too advanced for him). I knew it didn't matter, he would just be too excited to see books with pictures of baseballs in them.
Well, when she led us to the sports section, you could almost see the skies open up and hear the angels sing. Evan was in heaven.
"Mommy, look!!! Baseball books, oh oh and basketball books, and football books and tennis books and volleyball books."
He looked at the librarian with eyes wide open and a big toothy grin, "Thank you!!"
So that day we ended up bringing home the six books in the above picture. While checking the books out, the lady behind us smirked, "I wonder what his interests are!"
The amazing thing was, that even though the books we brought home from the library were for older elementary students, Evan would sit and listen to Jeremy read those books to him over and over again. Jeremy would read then explain, and read and explain some more. Finding what your toddlers and preschoolers interests are is the first key element in teaching successful non-fiction reading skills. If you can teach solid reading skills early on with what your child's interests are, then mandatory non-fiction reading in school will be an easy transition for your child.
Here are some useful tips and strategies to try with your children when reading a non-fiction book. Allow the questioning to come effortlessly, non scripted and smoothly. You don't need to have these questions rehearsed. Remember you are modeling to your children. Allow them to watch how you approach it.
1. Allow your children to verbalize what they already "know" about the topic before you read the book, by asking them probing questions on what they already know about the topic. You are not looking for correct assumptions.
Just allow your child to talk the topic at hand. Evan is completely in to pumas right now, so the first time we picked up the puma book, I just asked him to tell me what he liked about pumas. He mentioned he liked how big they were and the loud roar they make. We learned later on in the book that pumas don't roar. So it doesn't matter whether their assumptions are correct or not. Most preschoolers want to read the same book over and over again. You don't neccessarly need to have them repeat this step every single time.
2. Preview the text. Allow your child to look at the pictures on the cover and inside the book, read key words to them, read titles to them. Explain/ review those key words. Many of the key words in non-fiction are new vocabulary words that need to be explained. When they are old enough to read, they will read the key words and titles themselves. This peaks their interests and actively engages your child into the book.
3. Review what your child learned after you are finished with the book. This doesn't have to be an oral quiz, a list of questions and answers. Allow it to be organic! You can start this conversation by saying something like, "wow, I didn't know pumas didn't roar, what did you learn from what we read?" Children at this age will want to tell you all kinds of new information. Just let it roll!
4. Review the topic later. I always like to bring up a topic at dinner time to let Evan tell Jeremy what he learned in one of his books that day. This is a great time for sharing for your preschooler. They feel actively involved and important in the dinner conversation. This also allows for the information to become permanent in their memory, by repeating what they read. Sometimes just to throw a curve ball, Jeremy or I will give a wrong fact, just to see if Evan is paying attention and corrects us. It's a fun game to play!
5. Use new vocabulary, as much as possible, in other various conversations and topics. This will reinforce what your child previously read! And before long you will notice them using those words in their conversations with you and others.
Now it's your turn! What topics are your preschoolers / toddlers completely obsessed with lately? Have you used those obsessions for some great learning opportunities. I want to hear from you, let me know by leaving a comment!!
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