Even the toughest of us fathers will get a little bit emotional when our kid attends school for the first time. Once the child enters into that kindergarten room, we are no longer their entire world and must share them just a teeny bit with the teacher and their classmates.
As a certified Reading Specialist that has worked with hundreds of kindergarten students over the years, I have seen more than a few fathers with tears in their eyes on that first day. Seeing a grown man cry is always a sight to see. I can’t really talk though. The first ten minutes of the film Up had me openly weeping in the theater and almost drove me into therapy.
It Could Be More Emotional Than You Even Know
While your emotions will be going haywire as you watch your kid begin their journey into the classroom for at least the next 13 years, you may soon become even more stressed out if you have not prepared your child academically for this moment.
Not only am I a father myself, but I have been the lone male elementary school teacher that has worked with young children in the three different school districts I have been employed in. Finding a male elementary school teacher that works with the primary grades (kindergarten through third grade) is so rare that it is sort of like seeing a leprechaun riding on the back of a unicorn in your backyard.
Father to father, let my knowledge about education help you make certain that your young child is ready for that first day in kindergarten.
It All Begins With Reading
A child’s ability to read in the primary grades is one of the most important indicators for academic success now and in the future. It all begins with reading. Every subject in school involves having solid reading skills so the student can comprehend the information presented.
A child may love to learn about history and science, but if their reading achievement is on the low side, they will struggle to maintain good grades in those subjects. If a child is not able to read at least 90 percent of the words correctly in the text they are focusing on, their comprehension will suffer greatly. Realistically, that number should be up closer to 98 or 99 percent as that is where usually you will find the best students in the class when it comes to reading fluency.
How to Teach Reading to Your Young Child
Here is the thing about teaching reading skills to a young child: It’s usually not that hard. It just takes time and a little knowledge. And if you are waiting for the kindergarten teacher to work his or her magic and help your child learn how to read, then your child is already behind the eight ball.
As a father, and hopefully your wife will pitch in as well, there are things you can do while your child is a toddler to increase their reading achievement even before they take a step in the classroom for the first time. With a little time and effort, your child can enter kindergarten already knowing how to read. The following are research-based activities that are proven to work with helping your child learn how to read.
Start simple and help your toddler learn all the letter names. Instead of trying to get them to name all 26 at once, start with only three or four. Once they have those nailed down, add another two to the group and then build from there. This exercise can be completed simply with those letter magnets that can go on refrigerators. A toddler’s attention span is on the short side, so only expect about five minutes of focus. After they get really good at it, you can place your child on certain educational apps and websites that will continue to build upon this skill.
Once your child has learned to name all of the 26 letters, it is time to teach them the sounds that go along with the letter. This is called phonemic awareness. Again, start with just a few letters and wait until they have mastered knowing the sounds that correspond with them before adding more letters into the mix. After they get pretty good at it, say a word to them like “pig” and ask them what is the first letter in the word. As they become stronger at identifying letters and sounds, go over a bunch of words with them and ask what letter they hear first and the letter they hear last.
Phonics involves putting the letters and the sounds together to form words. Find some letter blocks and have five of these in front of you and your child. Demonstrate how you can make words with the five letter blocks. For instance, you may have the letters a, c, n, d, and f. The first word you can show them could be “and”. Be sure to sound out each letter almost in an exaggerated way so they can match up the letter with the sound. Do a few of these with your child and then see if they can create their own as well.
There are some words in the English language that cannot really be sounded out with ordinary phonics skills. For instance, the word “the” does not follow the letter sounding rules. These types of words are called sight words. The child will have to learn them from sight and repetition.
Fry’s Instant Sight Words will help you determine which words your child should know instantly. While there are some words you can certainly sound out on the Fry list, all of these words should eventually be recognizable to the child pretty quickly.
The first 25 words on the list make up about one-third of all text a child or adult will come across. The first 100 words cover about 50 percent of everything a child or adult will read. This means that if your child can learn the first 100 words on this list before they begin kindergarten, they will be in the position to instantly head to the front of the class.
A child that is not constantly frustrated will learn how to read much better. Be sure to chop up these lessons into manageable time periods otherwise they will reach their frustration level and shut down after a while. Learning to read is a process so don’t expect for it to happen overnight. But with a bit of practice, your child will be put into the position to succeed early and often with their academic achievement.