Your 3 1/4-year-old: Reading skills

Your 3 1/4-year-old: Reading skills

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Your 3-year-old now

Pass by a crosswalk sign with a symbol of a walking adult and child and your child blurts out, "Crosswalk!" Recognizing symbols is one of the first steps in learning to read. While most children won't be ready to read on their own for another couple of years, many kids this age are what's called "pre-emergent readers."

While it's important to teach letters and sounds, these isolated skills won't magically turn your child into a reader. In fact, overemphasizing mechanics can be a frustrating turnoff to a child who's not ready. For this age group, it's better to just have fun with language. Sing a book instead of reading it. Listen to a book on tape — especially one your child is already familiar with. Buy toys that are characters from favorite books, or make simple stick puppets and act out the story.

Phonological awareness — knowing that each letter has a sound and being able to discriminate sounds in words — is also an important reading skill. You can start building this skill now with simple low-pressure rhyming and word games. "Does 'ham' rhyme with 'Sam'?" "Does the first sound in 'pumpkin' sound the same as the first sound in 'pass'?" (Note: You're not asking them identify letters here, just sounds.)

Your life now

You might find yourself wondering about your growing child's size. Your child's doctor tracks height and weight to make sure he's on track. But you'll want to keep an eye on it as well. You can check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Children's Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. If your child seems to be getting too heavy, especially if there's a family history of obesity, check it out sooner rather than later so you can make diet and lifestyle adjustments now.

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