Long before they learn to read, children can begin to develop skills that will be important for reading development. Good oral language skills, including the ability to use words, combine words into grammatically correct sentences, and to understand the words and sentences others are saying, lays the foundation for reading and later success in school.
Even young babies can start the literacy journey, when their parents read to them every day, and talk about what they are looking at. One of the things that we can easily do to support children’s language, and to set the groundwork for success in school, is to introduce books and print to them early and often, in a fun, loving, and supportive way.
It has been said that by their first birthday, children should have been read 1000 books (Mem Fox, “Reading Magic”).That sounds like a lot, but if you only read 3 books a day, beginning soon after a child is born, you will have read more than 1000 books. They don’t need to be new books each day. In fact, most children love hearing the same book, day after day, and will surprise you by recognizing familiar words and by filling in the blanks, if you let them.
Literacy skills and awareness change, as your child moves through different stages in his development.
- Choose books that are made of plastic, cloth or sturdy cardboard.
- Choose books with large, simple pictures of familiar things (e.g. a dog, a cat, a cup, and shoes).
- Use a sing-song voice when sharing a book. It will keep your child’s attention. It also helps babies to recognize that reading has different sounds and rhythms.
- Point to the pictures, and to any words on the page. If this becomes a habit for you, you will continue to do this, as your child gets older and their interest changes. You will help him to recognize, that what is on the page has meaning.
- Let your baby flip the pages. You don’t have to read the book in order, or even read all of the words.
- Make reading a routine that you do with your baby every day. When your baby shares books with you every day, they will look forward to it. The love of books with begin.
As your child starts to use words, and to combine words into short sentences, they will find sharing books even more fun. Your child will look forward to this time, to explore the book, and to learn to say the words that are on the page.
- Point out print everywhere. This will help your child develop important pre-reading or emergent literacy skill. Many children recognize the McDonald’s Golden Arches and the STOP sign.
- Give your child paper and crayons or pencils and encourage him to “write” or draw. They will learn how to hold a pencil and experience the excitement of creating something special. Talk about what they have written and print the real words on their page. Draw your child’s attention to the word and say the word aloud.
- Take pictures of family members and put them into a photo album. Print the person’s name under the picture. Show the child how you write it and what it says.
- Bring print to your child’s attention. This will make your child more aware. When print is everywhere, it will become familiar, and will help your child learn.
- Give your child a paper and pencil, and ask them to write a letter to Grandma, or help make a shopping list. At this stage, children can learn that writing is a part of everyday life. , They will take their literacy learning to the next stage.
- Visit your local library. Your child can hear different stories at library story times. Visits to the library can be great adventures.
The websites listed below will give you more ideas and information on literacy: