Reading Must Be Taught:
While acquiring language comes naturally for most children, learning to read does not. It is a skill that must be taught. Children who already know about their world and the purpose of language will be better prepared to learn how to read when they enter school. Parents can help their children prepare by providing a print-rich environment in the home. Magazines, newspapers, and a collection of high-quality children's books provide material that parents can read aloud to their children.
As children become more familiar with the stories that are being read to them, they will attempt to pretend to read. This is known as emergent reading. Children are not actually reading from the books, but reciting the stories as they remember them. Encourage this retelling since it promotes the value of reading as a highly desired skill. Certain toys are also useful in promoting literacy skills such as alphabet blocks and magnetic letters that can be manipulated to make words. Children become familiar with the letters of the alphabet and with their shapes and sounds through these activities. Dolls and puppets can be used to act out stories.
Using Neighborhood to Foster Skills:
The local neighborhood is a print-rich environment that offers many opportunities to expose children to words, symbols, and logos, which will increase their general knowledge. Supermarkets are particularly good for increasing literacy skills. Parents can have their children assist in creating a shopping list, looking at coupons from flyers and talking about the letters and signs in the store that often are paired with a picture. Parents can also help children make selections from restaurant menus, point out words on signs and read the schedules of buses, subways, and trains. These are just a few of the ways that parents provide the foundation for building their children's literacy skills. Providing print-rich environments, engaging children in meaningful discussions with proving questions, and teaching children about letters and words will better prepare the child to learn how to read when they enter school. Perhaps most important of all is modeling that reading is fun and is part of the everyday activities that the whole family enjoys.
Tips for Parents: Oral Language Development:
Oral language development is the first step in a child’s literacy development. By engaging your child in oral language activities, you are laying the foundation for your child to learn to read and write. Research tells us that children with strong oral language skills will most likely have strong reading and writing skills. Here are a few ideas that promote oral language development:
- Talk to your child whenever possible. Children enjoy talking about friends, families, or favorite activities.
- Teach your child to look at you when you are speaking. Making eye contact is very important. The child needs to see your facial expressions, and hear your voice clearly. Do the same when your child speaks. This sends a clear message that you are listening and care about what your child is saying.
- Talk about what you are doing. Simple daily activities give wonderful opportunities for language development. It encourages conversational skills and helps the child to acquire general vocabulary.
- Encourage your child to sing songs, say rhymes, tell stories.
- Tell your child stories about when you were growing up, things from the past or things that will be happening in the future. You can use prompts such as, ”What happened next?” or “When did that happen?”
- Read books together. Picture books are a great way to increase vocabulary and get children talking.
- Stuffed animals and puppets are great tools for getting children to speak and use dialogue. Use the puppet or animal to share information, tell a story, or sing songs.
More Tips for Parents: Reading and Writing:
- Bake/cook your favorite meal. Have your child read the recipe. Talk about the ingredients. Have your child retell the sequence of ingredients. This is a great time to use specific adjectives that will describe the food you are making.
- Play board games together (e.g. Scrabble, Pictionary, Monopoly, Uno, Memory games). Turn one night into Family Game night!
- Organize a scavenger hunt where children seek out items that begin with certain letters of the alphabet (Alphabet Hunt).
- Can you read 25,000 pages in 80 days? This is called Around the World in 80 Days because it’s nearly 25,000 miles around the world. Set a goal for you and your family. How many pages can your family read in 80 days?