Kindergarten is the start of many children’s academic career and will set the pace for how they progress through school. One of the best ways to prepare for kindergarten is through exposure to books. Here are seven essential skills kindergartners need that are built through exposure to children’s books.
ENTHUSIASM TOWARD LEARNING
Teachers look for students who ask questions and are eager to explore and discover. Picture books play an essential role in helping develop this curiosity. Start by reading books focused on a favorite topic and follow the connections that organically occur. An interest in Cinderella might lead to reading Cinderella stories from other cultures and countries, learning about those countries, and plotting them on a map. It might lead to exploring other fairy tales- classic, modern or fractured versions. Or, it might spur an interest in ballerinas, ballet steps and terminology, or the stories behind the classic ballets.
Reading (and read alouds) is the perfect way to develop the attention skills necessary to listen to the teacher, follow directions and focus on learning. These skills are learned through time spent with parents enjoying books, and are built gradually. Remember the first time you read to your child? Think of how far you have come!
A WORKING VOCABULARY
Exposure to children’s books is essential for vocabulary development. The more you hear words, the better your vocabulary, and the easier it is to learn new concepts and information. On a deeper level, books expose us to a different and more specialized set of vocabulary words than every day conversation. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, includes the word “cocoon.” When was the last time you worked cocoon into a conversation with your pre-schooler?
AN UNDERSTANDING OF BASIC CONCEPTS
Books are a fun, non-threatening way to foster basic letter and number recognition, as well as introduce shapes and colors. Favorites such as “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and “Mouse Paint” directly teach young children these basic concepts. However, these concepts are also learned indirectly through repeat exposure to the printed and spoken word
Early exposure to children’s literature provides an intuitive understanding of how books work. How do you hold a book? Which way does a page turn? Pre-readers must understand that there is a word / text correspondence as well as a picture/text correspondence. These skills are easily picked up by children who are frequently exposed to books.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and break down the subtle sounds in words, and is taught through exposure to rhyming and repetitive refrains. Dr. Seuss’ nonsense words help children focus on the individual and changing phonemes of each word. Repetitive refrains in nursery rhymes and books based on favorite songs allow children to accurately predict the next word or rhyme.
AN ABILITY TO THINK CRITICALLY
Through the sharing of books at a pre-reading stage, children learn to think critically. Modeled by their parents, and reinforced through discussion, they learn to ask themselves questions such as: What do you think happened? How would you feel if that happened to you? The ability to ask and answer these questions builds the foundations for more complex critical thinking skills.
Whether you are preparing to send your child to kindergarten this coming September, or in a few years, you can be confident in knowing that the time spent browsing through libraries and books stores, the nights curled up re-reading a favorite story, and the hours spent searching for yet another book about trains have been wisely spent.