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Begin the Process Early

In her 24 years of experience, Nancy Singer—a kindergarten teacher at Harlan Elementary School in Birmingham, Michigan—has found that it's never too early to help kids grasp the concept of reading.

"Even for kids who are 2 or 3 years old, reading aloud can help them understand that the funny little marks on paper have meaning," Nancy says. "[This] is why we encourage people to read to their kids when they are very, very young."

Nancy, who has a master's degree in reading, also suggests teaching children by making letters out of Play-Doh, writing in the sand, drawing on the carpet and using pipe cleaners to create words.

With kids who are 3 or 4 years old, Nancy says, half the battle is getting them over that initial fear of reading on their own, even if that means they're just pretending to read by reciting a story from memory. In their moments of frustration, you should remind them that everyone can read the pictures and take the time to sit with them as you decipher stories page by page.

"If you just make a commitment to read to them and have them read to you every single day, that's the best thing you can do," Nancy says.

Thanks to parents who have made this commitment, it's become more common for pre-reading, the act of pretending to read but gaining interest in stories, to occur in preschool. With this initial step already under way, kindergarten teachers like Nancy can aim to have their students doing early reading by the end of the school year.

To meet this goal, Nancy regularly connects reading and writing in the classroom. By giving her students the freedom to use inventive spelling in their stories when they're stumped, she helps them develop their phonics skills, which in turn improve their reading abilities.

Read for meaning.

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