These past few weeks we have been talking about early literacy. This is such an important topic because all parents can vastly increase the ease in which their children learn to read. Parents can do this simply by focusing on the quality and quantity of their own communications with their child from birth to school age. Because we all want the very best start in reading for our children, I will review the salient points in early literacy:
• Talk and sing to your baby before birth. A fetus can hear soon after four months and besides all the internal sounds of your body, babies hear the mother's voice more clearly than all other external sounds. By singing and talking to your baby before birth, you are capitalizing on this.
• Talk and sing to your newborn when they are awake and alert. Do this a lot! Newborns are wired to pay attention to language that is directed towards them. Talking to another adult, the conversations on television, and songs sung by professional singers don't count! The more language your baby hears from you, directed towards him or herself, the more readily will they begin to understand language.
• Take conversational turns with your baby. If he yawns, you take a turn to yawn. If she opens her eyes wide, you open your eyes wide. This will help your baby learn that what he has to say (or do) carries meaning and his parent understands the meaning.
• As babies begin to pay attention to objects, show and talk about a chubby board or other style toddler book that you enjoy. Provide a few different books during this time, but not too many because babies love repetition. Try to figure out which book is your baby's favorite. You can read the words or simply talk about the pictures in the book. Help your baby to turn the pages when she is able to grab for the book.
• Toddler time from about eighteen months to three years is an important time to maintain routines regarding reading books. The same comfortable chair, a small stash of favorites, and an occasional new book build happy reading routines. The key point is to read every day and to keep the time within what your child can manage. Here you can use favorite songs and fingerplays both to develop a reading time and to extend the amount of time your toddler stays interested in the reading activity.
• Around age three or before, you can begin to provide crayons and paper. Encourage your child to tell you about his picture and try not to become the one drawing the pictures! If your child tells you the scribble is a cow, print the word 'cow' on his picture. The goal here is to develop meaning from the words and pictures.
Using these strategies and many more that you come up with will build a good reader from birth. This is the goal of early literacy.