Gone are the days when kindergarten was all about social skills and following direction!
According to UConn Associate Professor Michael Coyne, who conducts research in early literacy, many kindergartners will also be reading by the end of their first school year.
"Kindergarten is including a more academic focus than it has in the past," he noted.
Coyne offers some easy tips below to help your soon-to-be kindergarten student succeed at reading next school year.
1. Read aloud to your child as often as you can, even if it's only for a few minutes a day.
"Language and vocabulary are huge components of academic success," Coyne said.
Luckily, he explained that enriching your child's vocabulary and making them more comfortable with language can be easily worked into everyday tasks.
Coyne recommends reading a book to your child as often as possible, even if only for a few minutes. But he added that the conversation can be just as important as the reading.
"Talk about interesting words that are in the book, what's happening in the plot, and how your child feels about it," he suggested.
2. Expand your conversations in the car, at dinner, wherever you go with your child!
Don't let the talking stop at books, Coyne advises. Encourage your child to speak more during everyday conversations. Instead of asking "yes" or "no" questions or accepting short answers, keep the chat going so your child builds richer language and longer, more complex answers.
"Some kids enter kindergarten unable to express themselves using more than three to four words in a row," Coyne said. "Try to have interactive conversations to extend what your child says. Ask to hear more about it."
3. Chat about letters, using more than the "alphabet song," to help your child begin to recognize them.
If you see words out and about, ask your child if they know the letters in the word, Coyne suggests.
And go beyond just naming the letter! According to Coyne, parents that discuss the sounds that accompany each letter, are giving their children a big step up towards reading.
For example, if your child correctly identifies a "k," also let your young reader know that the letter typically makes a "kuh" sound.
"When they begin to learn how to read, the focus will be on letter sounds, as well as letter knowledge," Coyne said.
4. Break down words during your reading time together.
Bring the phonetics lesson to bedtime stories!
"Word games help to prepare kids to learn how to read," Coyne said. "Things like rhyming or asking about the sound that starts off a word can all help."
Coyne said that parents and children can break down words together, figuring out together which sounds make up the word.
For example, "dog" includes "duh," "aw," and "guh."
5. Go back to reading basics.
It may not be the first test a parent might look for, but kindergarten teachers will be chekcing for some crucial and simple reading knowledge from first time students.
For example, does a student open a book right-side up? Do they open it from the front? Do they know to read from left to right and down the page?
"Kindergarten teaches want to know if their students can mimic the idea of reading, even if they can't actually read yet," Coyne said.
Parents can subtly emphasize these skills during daily reading time by turning the pages with their child or tracing their finger along the text as its being read.