When Can I Start To Use little Books With My Child?

I was watching home videos the other day, re-living so many great memories; but now, as a teacher, I observed one clip in a new light. It was me, five years old, reading a mini decodable book: “Jack can read, see him read, read well Jack!” At that time, I was so proud of myself, hogging the spotlight and angry when my three year old little sister chimed in.

Looking at that clip through a new lens there is nothing more enjoyable than sharing in a five year olds excitement that he/she can read! And even more so, wishing I would have shared that WITH my three year old little sister because, three year olds can learn to read. GRANTED, there is a process. Everyone wants to adopt the quick “My Baby Can Read” fix. And that is understandable, but I want to introduce some important guidelines to introducing little decodable books:

Here are pictures of my little book bin at home, filled with little Ziploc baggies of printed books and the words that I introduce before teaching little ones to read them.

You can start teaching print concepts as early as you can. These are concepts about the structure of books such as books tell a story, pictures tell about the story, words tell about the pictures, how to properly hold the book, how to turn pages the right way (one at a time), how to follow the text of a books one word at a time from left to right and then return back to the left time to read the next line. There are others but these are the book basics. That is why reading with children every day is important because you expose them to the functions of a book. This is their reading foundation.
In the meantime, while your child is learning these print concepts, you should practice letter naming and phonemic awareness. These three skills: 1) print concepts, 2) letter naming, and 3) phonemic awareness, are parallel to each other. They are go hand-in-hand and can be learned alongside each other. Phonemic awareness is the main skill that follows a sequence.
IF, your child has gotten to the point where he/she can isolate sounds in words (hearing the /b/ sound at the beginning of “bear”) THEN he/she is ready to start reading little decodable books.

The three sites I use most to get my decodable books are:
1) Hubbard’s Cupboard
2) JMeacham

But there is an absolute ART to teaching children in sequence how to read these little books, and I will share some tips for the trade in my next post 
As for Today, if your child is at the point in their development where they are READY for this step, I want you to look through the different books and make a few observations: You are LEARNING today:
~How many words are in the pages of the books (some have 2 words per page, others 10 words per page)?
~Is the book repetitive (the same words repeating on every page with the exception of a new picture/word in one’s place that describes the picture)?
~Is the book of interest to your child (Is the book about a topic your child cares about)?
~What words would your child have to learn before being able to read the book?

Don’t try teaching your child to read the books YET. Just learn about the books and PRINT a few of the SIMPLE books – 2 or 3 words per page.
This is a great start! You are a great parent to want to invest in your child in this way!

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