Looking for ways to teach your child to read before Kindergarten? In addition to reading frequently in the home, we participate in a program called UPSTART.
Reading is a huge part of our family culture. At pretty much any given time of day, you will find at least one person in our family reading. We love it! The average age for our children to start reading is age 3. By Kindergarten, our kids are usually reading chapter books. The great thing is, I want to let you know how it can be possible for YOU and your children too!
First off, like I stated above, reading is part of our family culture. We begin the day by reading scriptures together as a family. We visit the Library weekly and participate in Story Time and Summer Reading Programs. I read stories to the kids who are not yet in school throughout the day. At night, we do a bedtime story picture book and then when they are all tucked in their beds, I will read out loud from a chapter book. When we go on long car rides we listen to an audiobook together. That’s quite a bit of reading!
In addition to all of this, my kids have each participated in a program by the Waterford Institute called UPSTART the year before they enter Kindergarten. It is a free online Preschool that teaches kids Reading, Math, and Science skills up through Second Grade.
The computer program goes through a series of games to teach your child different concepts. Tests and quizzes are given throughout to check your child’s understanding. If the child understands the concept, they move on. If they struggle to answer the test questions correctly, they run through that track again with different games to reinforce those skills.
Learning to Read
The Reading portion of this program is more than just learning sight words. They do learn sight words (called Power Words), but they are also taught comprehension, fluency, and expression.
Stories are read and then games are played to
- put parts of the story in order
- fill in the missing part of the story
- understand what the story was about
- learn the different parts of a story (characters, plot, etc.)
Thankfully, I have never had to suffer through the robotic reading where every single word is sounded out. UPSTART not only teaches the Power Words, but it helps the kids to look for clues as to how to say a word. There are different games where their voice is recorded reading the story, and tells them how many words per minute they read. They also record themselves reading stories and then play it back so they can hear themselves read.
There are voice recording games to teach expression and tone as well. The finer points of being an interesting reader are addressed by focusing on how your voice should sound when reading an exclamation point or question mark.
UPSTART is filled with fun songs. We sing them all the time around here! There are songs in different languages, different versions of the ABCs (the pirate ABCs is our favorite), and songs to teach the rules of reading. These songs are catchy and are played after every couple of games. You will hear the same songs repeated often enough throughout your time on the program that you will have them memorized. Luckily, there is such a large volume of songs that you won’t get too sick of any one song in particular.
When participating in this program, you will receive an email once a week from your personal care representative telling you how your child is progressing. There is also a Parent Portal where you can check your child’s progress at any given time. This will tell you what concept your child is working on, as well as what grade level they are currently ranking, and what their accuracy or understanding is. Through the Parent Portal you also have access to worksheets for further practice as well as ideas to extend their learning.
15 Minutes a Day, 5 Days a Week
This is the mantra of UPSTART. If your child participates in UPSTART 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, they will be Kindergarten ready for sure! Because my kids love the program so much, they usually do 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week. The 30 minutes is broken up into 15 minutes of Reading, and 15 minutes of Math and Science. The 6 days a week is because they beg me to ‘play’ UPSTART even on Saturdays. We take a day off so that they will be looking forward to playing it again on Monday.
As you can see from the chart below, quite a bit can be learned in 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week!
We love this program so much, that we put our kids on the waiting list for it when they are born. We have had the program in the home for 4 out of the last 6 years. On the years we haven’t had it, our kids frequently ask when we will get UPSTART again.
The secret to getting our kids reading so young is all in the sibling accounts. UPSTART encourages siblings to play on their own accounts as encouragement to the child who is enrolled. We always have the next child in line playing on their own account. For the first half of the year, I only have the younger sibling do the Reading portion. Once the new calendar year starts, I have them do the Math and Science as well. It can be a fairly frustrating experience for a two-year-old to learn to maneuver a mouse, but once that task is mastered, they excel at the program. Our two year old is currently learning how to spell his name and recognize all the capital letters.
Get the Program
Because this program has been so successful in the past, it is now offered in our Elementary Schools. All Kindergarteners in our School District do their 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week on “Rusty and Rosy” as they call it.
Each year we are encouraged to write letters to our State Government to thank them for the program and tell them of the success our child had in the program. If the UPSTART program is not offered in your area, talk with your local schools, and State Representatives about the program. It is worth the State Funding to provide this invaluable learning experience to young children.
Benefits of Teaching Your Child to Read
Having young readers is a huge benefit to our family in many ways. Here are just a few of the things I love about fluent young readers:
- many people to read stories to younger siblings
- younger siblings can help older siblings with their spelling words
- older kids that don’t nap have something engaging to do during quiet time
- even a Kindergartener can read the instructions on their homework on their own
- books entertain my children at the Doctor’s office and other places where you have to wait
- kids are able to focus on things they are interested in at school rather than struggling to learn to read
UPSTART is an amazing program. Your child will not become a fluent reader or enjoy reading to its fullest with this program alone though. It is essential that you read with your child. Talk about books that you are reading, and ask about what they are reading. Read chapter books together and explore the world through non-fiction books.
How do you teach your children to read?