We all want our little ones to be good readers. Studies have shown that literacy can really set the stage for success, and it starts at a young age. It can be hard to sit down and read a story with your little one, but take heart, you shouldn’t expect your child, under three, to sit with you and listen to a story. The best thing to do to encourage early literacy is to play with your little one and provide context for words and stories later. For example taking them to a farm and showing them cows that say ‘moo’, and pigs that ‘oink’, gives that pictures and sounds connect to a word. When reading a story about a farm, they will have been there and know what that is, they can remember the cow in the pasture, and the pig eating from the trough. Part of reading is imagining and connecting, so giving our children those experiences to connect them to a story will help them be successful. It’s also important to expose them to books, whether it be just opening and shutting a book like a mouth, or letting your little one play with the book. This exposure helps children see and understand how books work.
Talking and Listening:
When children develop enough to start reading, it is easier for them to conceptualize and remember words if they have had heard or seen that word in some context. The best thing you can do for your little one is talk to them. Studies have shown that the more words a child has heard before they reach kindergarten the better off they will be when it comes to reading. There are two types of talk that are extremely beneficial. Self-talk and Parallel-talk.
Self-talk is probably something you are already doing; it is when you are describing what you are doing. For example, when you are making brownies you would say‘I put the eggs in’, ‘I am mixing the batter’, ‘Now I turn on the oven.’ Think of all the words you are using and the context you are giving to your kiddos. This sets a perfect stage for when they do start learning to recognize words.
Parallel-Talk is when you are labeling what your child is doing. During play time you might say ‘you are stacking, up, up, up’, ‘oh is that a book you are reading?’ This one really helps with language development to because they are connection words with action. It can be difficult to fill your day with constant talking, but parallel talk can be great because your little one is doing on the actions you just need to label their play.
Looking at Books:
For children under the age of three, the most success you will have with reading is looking at pictures and encouraging them to label what they see. You can ask ‘where is the dog?’ and then praise them when they point to the dog. Or you can ask ‘what is that?’ while pointing to a picture of a cat. Practice looking at pictures from front to back, so they can start understanding ordering. Let them feel the letters on your books, so they can be familiar with letters as a symbol. Written language is just being able to read symbols, acquainting our little ones with letters, is the same as showing them pictures. It isn’t really age appropriate for a child under three to know their letters, but familiarizing them with letters won’t hurt.
As your child gets older, read simple stories to them and ask questions like ‘what will happen next?’. Over time, children will fall in love with certain stories and will love talking about them with you.
I love reading, it has brought me such joy and a connection to others through sharing a love of stories. Children can really grow and learn through books and I encourage all of you to make reading part of your daily activities. Happy reading