Sunday, January 15, 2012

More on Literacy

We started 2012 with a discussion on building literacy skills for our little ones. I told you that reading is dependent on decoding the written word (sounding out words as we read) and being able to understand the content of what is read. The important point I wished to make was that what parents do in the first years, right from birth, has a big impact on how easily a child learns to read.
Last week’s discussion was about why it is important to talk to your baby. This week I would like to think about the content of what we say and how that helps build literacy skills.
When we engage babies by speaking directly to them (television, radio, and talking with adults doesn’t count) our babies learn to pay attention to what we show and tell them. Very early on children are able to follow our eye gaze or finger when we point out something interesting to them. They are learning to pay attention to what we are telling them is important.
We can tell our two month old about the toys they have on the floor with them as we hold up the toy in their range of vision. “See your pretty horse? Can you feel how soft he is?” Baby is gaining a big stash of receptive language in these two sentences. He is gaining vocabulary that he will use when he begins to talk and through this he is also learning content and meaning.
All of these things help later as the child learns to read. He will be ready to process sentence structures that we use. He will know that the attributes given to the toy are interesting words to pay attention to. He may be working at decoding a word he has never seen before, but will be able to use what he already knows about horses to figure out the meaning of new and unfamiliar words.


Feed, feed, feed the birds
In the wintertime.
When the days are dark and cold
Food is hard to find

Feed, feed, feed the birds
Til the spring has come.
Scatter birdseed on the ground
Feeding birds is fun.

Pantomime Motions
tune:  Row, Row Your Boat

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