Pre-Reading Ideas


Q: My daughter just turned 4, and I was wondering if this is the right age to start teaching her to read?
— Book Lover

A: You began preparing your daughter to learn to read the first time you read a story to her. Continuing to prepare her to read is probably the single most important thing you can do for your child at this age.

Before beginning any type of formal reading instruction, you must make sure your child is very familiar with nursery rhymes and can recite them and also that the child knows how to recognize rhyming words. Part of your preparation should also include calling your daughter’s attention to the printed word in such things as stop signs and grocery items so she gets the idea that print carries a message.

Predictable pattern books should be the next step. Children love hearing the repeated words and phrases in books, such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “The Gingerbread Boy.” She can repeat with you lines from these books.

You can also start to teach your daughter to recognize the letters of the alphabet and some of their sounds. There are definitely a lot of books, alphabet blocks and musical videos that will make this more enjoyable. Remember that most children will not know all of the letters of the alphabet nor their sounds when they enter kindergarten.

Some children are more eager to learn to read than others. There is no particular age when formal reading instruction should begin. In fact, some children teach themselves to read before they are 4 while others are not ready until they are 6 or even older. You must limit what you try to teach your daughter about reading to that which interests her. You don’t want to turn her away from books and reading. After all, she will be taught to read in kindergarten and first grade.

Q: My 12-year-old daughter is very gifted. She could actually enroll in college now, but we are against this. Last year, she attended a summer program for the gifted and was absolutely delighted by the challenge. She has found the gifted program at school quite boring this year. The local community college has a gifted program; however, she is too young for it. What type of program should we be looking for to give her the challenge that she needs next year?
— Want Ideas

A: We like the idea of supplementing what she is doing in the gifted program at middle school with one or more online classes designed especially for gifted children by universities. In fact, she could even earn college credits. There now are many programs that would allow her to do this. Some are quite expensive, but they may offer scholarships. The gifted coordinator at your daughter’s school is likely to know the names of several of these programs.

You could also use a search engine or contact a parent organization for those who have gifted children to find a school. One great advantage of working with a parent group is that you talk to others who are facing and solving problems like the one you have. In addition, more and more school districts now offer advanced classes for gifted children online. These classes are typically for high-school students, but your daughter might be allowed to take one.

Too often, parents of gifted children concentrate solely on academics. There is a big world out there filled with other things that could fascinate your child. Would she like to play chess or bridge? What about doing something in the arts if she has a talent, skill or interest in this area? Is there some other area such as computers that she could delve into and become an expert? Do try to help your daughter expand her horizons.

Q: My children are always complaining that they never can say what they mean in their writing. Is there any way they can learn to do this?
— Searching for an Answer

A: Fortunately, there is something simple that may help your children express their thoughts better when they write. What they need to do is to really hear what they have written. For some, it works to read their writing out loud to themselves, paying attention to whether words or ideas are missing, thoughts are expressed in the right order, and they have said what they want to say. This doesn’t work for all children as they may not hear any flaws when they read their own work. However, they certainly will if someone else reads their writing to them.

If your children are young, they should try to perfect their message to the reader by reworking one paragraph or even a sentence at a time. Often, just a few sentences in a paragraph need to be rearranged, another sentence added or more description to make a paragraph meaningful. This is far easier to do if children can use a computer. They should always reread the changed copy out loud to make sure they like their revisions.

Parents should send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Piedmont Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395 or e-mail
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