Some Tips for Promoting Early Literacy
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a report in 2002 on world illiteracy statistics. In the report, the United States alone is projected to have an illiteracy rate of 5.3 percent by 2010. While that does not seem to be a high percentage, any illiteracy should be considered troublesome.
How do we combat those statistical projections? It is simple, really. By reading and promoting reading as early as possible. If parents wait until school begins (whether traditional preschool, pre-Kindergarten or homeschooling) it could mean that your child is already behind. By no means do you need to force reading on your child or expect them to be reading the Iliad by third grade, but there are simple, daily things that a parent can do to promote reading as a habit.
- Read with your child every day, even if it only for a few moments. Find a quiet and special place. Choose lyrical, rhyming books with engaging pictures for infants and babies. Encourage her to point at pictures and help you turn pages.
- If you are reading a longer story, don’t feel that you have to be locked into following the story the exact way that it’s written at first. If your child is more interested in the pictures, make up a loosely related story to the text about the pictures that he may be pointing to. When he’s older, and his attention span is longer, you can start to follow the story as it is written.
- Let your child see you reading. If they are playing nearby, pick up a book, magazine or newspaper and read. (Of course, don’t forget to continue paying attention to her.) Seeing you read will enforce visually that reading is for everyone. Plus, since she probably likes to do what you do, this is a good habit for her to copy.
- As your child gets older, let him select the books. Doing this will give him ownership over reading choices, and show that you value his opinions and desires. If you don’t have your own little library at home, take a field trip to your public library.
- If story time is also part of the bed time routine, encourage reading outside of bedtime as well. Let her pick a time during the day to read either by herself or with you together. As she gets older, you can give her picture/word books that she can “read” herself. Even if she is not yet really reading (by decoding the letters and their sounds) she is gaining a familiarity with the association between print and images.
- Don’t be afraid to introduce the alphabet with your young toddler. Beyond singing the alphabet song, play with letters and their sounds with her. This will help facilitate language skills as well as reading skills. If your family is bilingual do it with her in both languages.
- Remember words are everywhere and so is the opportunity for reading. With your older toddler, encourage reading when you’re out in the world by making games out of traffic signs when you’re driving or out of other things while you’re on a walk or at a park. For example, when at a stop light, you might say: “What color is the light?” and when she answers ask “what letter does red start with?” or “Let’s spell red.”
- Is your child already hooked on cartoons and videos? Don’t despair. Put those favorite characters to good literary use. Pick books that feature his favorite television friends if you are just getting started (or having to start over) to engage them with reading. Use these characters as positive examples as well: “let’s read like Elmo” or “Diego and Dora read, let’s read like them.”
- Encourage exploration and creative thinking about the stories as well as your child’s vocabulary and understanding grows. Ask her open-ended questions like “what do you think happens next?” “What do you see?” You’ll know the best questions to ask because you know your child and her development best.
- Don’t get locked into gender stereotypes. Sure, let Bobby listen to and read fairy tales and let Suzi listen to and read action-adventure stories. It won’t hurt, it will broaden their minds.
- If your child is tired, cranky or just not interested in reading at a given moment, don’t force it. Doing so will only create a negative association with reading. Instead, redirect her and save reading for a time later that day when she is ready.
- Encourage group-reading activities. Check with your library or local bookstore (like Borders) to see if they have a regularly scheduled story time. If they do, make a field trip out of it. (And don’t forget to borrow or buy a book for his own little library.)
These are just a few ways that parents can promote literacy in their homes early. It’s neither too early nor too late to start. Doing so will not only ensure later academic readiness, but also instill a love of reading that will hopefully last a lifetime.
For more tips see:
Some Tips for Promoting Early Literacy part two covers writing.