Erin Fitzgerald hopes that her website provides exactly the kind of help harried parents of preschoolers are looking for. At a time when job and housekeeping responsibilities might not leave enough time for parents to teach their children to read and count, ReadAcrossRiverside.com shows parents how they can get their children on the road to literacy by playing games with them anywhere, including in the car, at the dinner table and even on a grocery shopping trip.
The key, according to Fitzgerald, is interaction. While sitting down and focusing on ABCs is good too, the biggest leg up that parents can give their kids is to converse with them, even if the conversation is about topics other than reading. Telling stories from and about their favorite books when they were children, as well as their favorite games and other activities, engages children and keeps them interested.
However, carving out even a little bit of time to read to them also helps tremendously. It doesn't have to be long chunks of time. As a matter of fact, long reading sessions might be too much of a challenge for children's under-developed attention spans. Instead, a few pages from a story before bed every night, or even a picture book before bed time would be ideal.
Fitzgerald said she created the website as a final project for her master's degree in education with a concentration in reading at Cal State Fullerton. She said she got to practice everything she was learning in her own classroom.
Then, students had a choice of a final project, writing a thesis or a final test. She chose the project.
Fitzgerald said she wanted to create something that the parents of her students at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Riverside could use. The reading and education manuals she saw other students create were expensive to print, Fitzgerald said. So she built a website.
In addition to tips parents can use to get their children started with reading, the website also provides reading lists for pre-schoolers and beyond, in both English and Spanish. Although the site is aimed mainly at kindergarteners and first-graders, parents of students of any age who are struggling with literacy will be able to find something useful – like hints on how to select age-appropriate reading materials and which games work best to improve language acquisition.
The site suggests games to help children practice letter sounds, such as "I spy something that rhymes with blue (shoe)." or "I spy" something with the sounds of a beginning letter, middle letter or the ending sound of a word, such as "ing" or "s."