Young children move from “pretend” reading where they make up the story by looking at the pictures or remembering details from countless read-alouds by someone else to actually reading the words on the page. Generally, this happens at the end of kindergarten or beginning of first grade. Of course, all children develop at different rates, so this stage may happen earlier or later than this time. One of the greatest pleasures I had as a first grade teacher was seeing students unlock this lettering code.
Tracking print as a child is learning to read helps them to attend to the print. Tracking involves the child pointing to each word as it is being read. I’ve found that using a martian finger is a fun way to encourage this strategy for beginning readers. Young readers put the martian finger on their pointer finger and use it to help them track as they read. During the Halloween season, I’ve found a package of these fingers at the dollar stores. They can also be found at Oriental Trading Company. As I was flipping through the latest OTC catalog I also discovered snake head finger puppets which could be fun.
Tracking print is a short stage that we start to discourage once the text on the page increases to three sentences or so. At that point, we want children to start to track with just their eyes to help build reading fluency.
Scour the dollar stores and see what little gadgets you can pick up to encourage your young reader.