How to Encourage Early Literacy Skills in Your Child

How to Encourage Early Literacy Skills in Your Child

The seven best tips for helping your child learn to read.

With commercial reading programs that aim to teach infants how to read, it's important to remember that family and parent-child interaction is always a viable option for teaching your little one early literacy skills at home. From reading to your baby to speaking to your child in such a way that helps her learn language, you are your child's first teacher. Bianca J Corozzo, founder of H&B Learning, shares her seven best tips for helping your child learn to read at an early age.

 

When my daughter was two years old, her grandparents felt she was a child prodigy, not unlike how every grandparent feels about their first born grandchild. I vividly remember engaging in a “healthy” debate about their desire to purchase a commercial reading program for toddlers. While I am not opposed to these products, I had a very different opinion on how children become successful readers. Much to the dismay of well meaning family members, my plan did not include commercial programs.

Think about anything you have learned in your life. What was the deciding factor in your ability to excel? Most will agree that it was your motivation and desire to learn. This is especially true for children. Toddlers do not care how important their literacy skills are to being admitted to dental school, or how it will enable them to achieve high scores on the SATs. They care about being praised and encouraged, and doing things that “big people” do. Mommy and daddy do not watch videos or use apps that flash words and letters across the screen; they sit down and read books. They want to be like us, something that may change during the teen years so we might as well embrace it now!

That does not mean you have to sit by idly and wait for your child to enter to school to learn how to read. Quite the contrary; with the academic demands increasing as early as kindergarten, children should enter school with age appropriate literacy skills. However, this should be accomplished in a naturalistic setting, which maintains your child’s love of learning. We want our kids to view learning as an opportunity to discover and make meaning out of what they experience. Using drills and other forms of formal reading instruction at such an early age may have the opposite effect.

Here are some suggestions for creating a holistic, naturalistic learning environment for your child where literacy is embedded.

Be a good reading role model.

Always have books available. Sit down and read an article or a book that interests you. Read with your child often, every night if possible.

Have a wide assortment of reading materials available for your child.

Research shows that there is a direct relationship between a child’s reading ability and the amount of books she has access to. If this is not feasible, schedule regular trips to the public library.

Before reading and writing, comes listening and speaking.

Make sure to communicate with your children, increasing the number of words in their sentences, and help them become better listeners by asking them to follow simple directions.

Provide your child with a wide variety of life experiences.

The ideal is for kids to experience things first hand, but if that is not possible, you can watch videos or look at pictures and discuss what is happening. These life experiences will provide a greater frame of reference when he begins reading in school.

Talk to your kid about a variety of topics.

This can expand your child’s receptive and expressive vocabularies. Studies have shown that a child’s proficiency in reading is more related to his knowledge of the topic than his actual reading ability.

Help your child build phonemic awareness skills.

These skills refer to a child’s ability to manipulate sounds. Sing songs that play with words, make up silly words, emphasize rhyming words, and help kids take apart and put together the sounds in words. This is a skill that children do not learn on their own and is one of the most significant indicators of early reading success.

Get early intervention if necessary.

If you suspect that your child is not reaching his or her developmental milestones in the areas of speaking, listening or early literacy, make sure to reach out to a professional. The earlier a child gets help, the greater her chances of keeping up with her same age peers.

While purchasing a commercial product aimed at early literacy is never a bad idea, its purpose should be to supplement experiential learning. If you would like more information on this or related topics, please feel free to contact the author at bianca@handblearning.com.