By Dr. Bob Titzer
It makes sense that some of these Early Literacy Milestones are similar to some traditional spoken language milestones. For example, babies generally say their first words (on average) around 12 months of age in the US and about six months later the same child may be saying two- and three-word phrases. After another six months of saying phrases, babies often can speak in complete sentences. The milestone ages for this vary greatly from author to author, so these are not necessarily precise guides even with spoken language being so studied. Every child progresses at a different rate based on many factors, but don’t be surprised if your baby isn’t reading sentences right away even if he can read a couple of hundred individual words.
Unlike infants who are just learning to talk, preschoolers can already speak in sentences, and the ability to speak in complete sentences should assist them in not having an extra difficulty when reading words in sentences. On the other hand, many babies may have great difficulty reading longer sentences or reading from pages with words close together – even when they can read all of the words on the page individually. We have many parents tell us that learning to read sentences helped their infants’ verbal abilities in general.
Having a language-rich environment is very important for developing language skills. You can create a language-rich environment by making more sensory information available.
Try the following activities to help your child read long sentences:
- Find books with no more than 4 or 5 words on most pages and read them with your child. Still check out many other types of books from the library, but these books will help your child transition from reading two- and three-word phrases to longer sentences.
- With books that have more words per page, try covering up most of the page with a blank sheet of paper so only one or two lines of print appear.
- Take turns reading sentences with your baby. You may want to start off reading most of the longer sentences.
- Help your baby by reviewing some of the words or phrases in the sentences immediately before you read the sentences. For example, you could write out some of the more challenging words on a whiteboard individually and allow your child to sound the word out phonetically – helping your child when needed. In addition, write out some phrases from pages of books that have the most words. You may see whether or not your child can read the words when they are more isolated and whether or not having too many words on the page is a problem.
- Gradually transition from alternating reading words or phrases with your child to reading longer sentences, then pages, and groups of pages. Eventually, you can take turn reading books with your child.
- Read a wide variety of types of text where your child is highly motivated to read sentences. In addition to reading books, it could be reading signs, posters, sentences on websites, phone apps, birthday cards, etc.
- Turn on the closed captioning if you are watching other DVDs with your child. Try turning off the volume to make the experience more like reading a moving picture book. You can read most of it aloud and ask your child to read aloud with you.
- Use the Your CHILD Can Read DVDs, which have many sentences in them. They are designed to help children transition from reading short phrases to sentences and books.
- Write out sentences frequently on whiteboards, paper, on your computer, etc. and read the sentences together.
- Ask your child to say a sentence while you write it out or type it in a large font size as quickly as you can. You could take turns where you ask your child to say a sentence, then you quickly write it. Next, you can make up a sentence and write it out and ask your child to read it.
- Play a game where you write a short sentence and see if your child can add words to the sentence that make sense. We do this in the Your CHILD Can Read DVDs. For example, write out the first phrase, then either you or your child continue to add on more words.
“Michael is reading.”
“Michael is reading a book.”
“Michael is reading a book about dinosaurs.”
“Michael is reading a big book about dinosaurs.”
“Michael is reading a big book about several types of dinosaurs.”
You could also change parts of the sentence as long as you are making it longer, for instance:
“Michael enjoys reading thick books about many types of dinosaurs as well as about primates, birds, and other animals.”
It can be fun to have three or more people adding on to the sentences.
- Act out sentences. Write out a sentence that your child may find interesting, then demonstrate what you wrote. For example, write out, “I am going to hide a toy under the pillow on your bed.” then show it to your child, read it, then act it out. You could vary how you read the sentences using the earlier suggestions. With all of these activities, try to find the right balance where the game is challenging, but not too difficult.
- Narrate what is happening from your child’s perspective and write it out. For example, write and say sentences simultaneously similar to the ones below. Make it interactive part of the time by asking questions.
“Maria is playing with blocks.”
“Maria has two red blocks connected.”
“Maria has five yellow blocks and three blue blocks.”
“Will Maria connect another block to her two red blocks?”
“Look at the orange car.” [If there is an orange car that you can see.]
“Do you see the orange car?”
“Daddy is holding a big green block and two little blocks.”
The next milestone is Learning Phonics. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please share with everyone how your child is progressing through these Early Literacy Milestones by writing on our Facebook page or submitting your testimonial for publication here on our Early Learning Website.
Dr. Bob Titzer