5 Gifts to Give Your Child Before Kindergarten

Thanks to Christ the Savior Academy for sponsoring this post and for offering quality education to Wichita families!

Kindergarten teacher Lauren Jabara has a school supply list that may take years for parents to complete. It won’t cost a lot of money, but it can ensure your child’s academic success for a lifetime.

Despite a decade of experience teaching kindergarten and a Master’s Degree specializing in reading, nothing prepared Lauren Jabara for teaching children to read quite like having a child herself.

“I realize now that success in school really begins at home – long before the child walks into my kindergarten classroom,” said Lauren Jabara, a kindergarten teacher at Christ the Savior Academy. “Truly, the greatest gift any parent can give their child is to teach them to love to read.”

In fact, a study by New York University’s Bernice Cullinan found that the amount of experience a five-year-old has with books is directly related to their reading comprehension at seven and eleven years old. The act of reading independently (books not assigned in school) is the single greatest factor in academic achievement.

As children’s author Katie DiCamillo put it, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.”

So, Jabara offers these five gifts to give your child before he reaches kindergarten:

The gift of modeling.

“Remember you are your child’s first teacher,” Jabara said. “The more they see you read, the more they will want to be like mommy or daddy.” As a teacher, Jabara is constantly telling her students how much she loves to read.

“Every morning we go around the room and they tell me what they are reading at home and then I share with them what I am reading,” Jabara explains.

The gift of interacting with words.

“My daughter has lots of board books, and she is able to access them on her own,” Jabara said. “This independence already is beginning to foster her love for books.” Remember babies and toddlers use all of their senses to enjoy a good book: They need to feel it, touch it, smell it, and, yes, taste it.

Literacy, at this age, goes beyond books, though. Begin to work on their letters and sounds in fun ways:

  1. Draw letters in the sand.
  2. Write letters with sidewalk chalk.
  3. Build words with alphabet blocks and then crash them.
  4. At bath time, write your child’s name with mousse soap.
  5. Make pretzel letters and eat them.
  6. Freeze magnetic letters in ice cube trays and chip away the ice to   “discover the letter and its sound”

“There are so many children who already have a negative attitude about reading,” Jabara warns. “Try to enjoy this time together with your child.”

The gift of reading to your child quality literature.

It has been said that good readers are made on the laps of their parents. Create a “cozy time” when you and your child can snuggle together and read.  Your child will begin to associate this love with reading.

“The idea that kids need to read and it doesn’t matter what they’re reading is not a good notion,” Jabara said. “Remember the books displayed in bookstores are chosen by marketers and often the classics are hidden somewhere on the bookshelf.”

Jabara says it is important to choose books that make children think and ask questions. Ask yourself, “Do I want my child to be like the character in the book?”

The gift of connection.

Reading to your child does not automatically lead to literacy. The New York University Study cited above found that the real link to literacy lies in the verbal interaction that occurs between the adult and child during story time.

“It is important for children to feel like the books they are reading have meaning to them,” Jabara said. “I try to have discussions with the children with every book that we read. Do we want to be like Sally who wasn’t kind to her friends, or like John who was?”

The gift of patience.

“You never want to associate reading time with mom and dad as stressful,” Jabara said. “Start it off on a positive note so that it will always be fun and not a chore.”

Jabara explains that every child is different, and that parents should not make their child feel inadequate if he is not reading by kindergarten.

“Having my own child has given me even more compassion,” Jabara said. “Every child is different. I’ve learned to be more patient with the whole process.”

Lauren Jabara is a kindergarten teacher at Christ the Savior Academy with more than a decade of experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree as a reading specialist. Her love for teaching children to read is only topped by her own love of reading.

Christ the Savior Academy, located at 13th and Rock Road in Wichita, is a classical, Christian School, with classes from Junior Kindergarten (age 4) to 5th grade. The curriculum combines the wisdom of the Church and the best of secular culture to teach students to read well, write well and think well. It is a time-tested model used since the Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval times. Oxford, Eton and Cambridge have used the classical method to produce leaders for centuries.

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