The first five years of a child’s life are crucial to developing skills that will make sure he or she is primed and ready to learn when kindergarten begins. Early literacy skills are especially important, as so much of a child’s other learning skills are dependent on the ability to read. At the library, we offer programming focused on children birth to five, and there is a children’s specialist at each branch to help recommend age-appropriate books and activities for your child.
These 5 simple parent practices can help your children develop the mental skills they will need to be ready to learn how to read!
That’s right—it’s that simple! Take time to talk to your children, even if they’re too young to talk back. When you’re doing household tasks or running errands, describe the things around you in detail. What color is the item? What shape? What is it for? What letters do you see? This is great in the grocery store, at home, on the bus, or any time you’re in a new place. Tell them family stories or the story of the day they were born.
This is the number one most important thing to do to develop literacy skills in your child, but it doesn’t have to be a plain old read-through of a book! Consider taking a "Picture Walk." Don’t read a single word, but instead look at the illustrations and ask your child questions about what they see on the page. Let the pictures be your guide! Explore wordless picture books: no words, but still plenty to "read!" Some favorites include The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, Wave by Suzy Lee, and Chalk by Bill Thomson.
This can be as simple as singing some classics like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "The ABCs." Singing songs introduces new vocabulary and also slows words down so that each individual sound is easier to hear. Try clapping out the rhythms to the syllables in phrases and words like your child’s name.
There are lots of fun ways to help your child make a connection between the spoken and printed word. Try playing with shaving cream in the bathtub and spelling out words and names on the walls. Take a tray of rice and "trace" words, letters, and names. Use tape to make giant letters on the floor.
You may or may not be surprised to know that playing is the way that children learn about a lot of things, not just literacy. Imagining that a paper towel tube can become a wand or a sword helps children understand that one thing can represent another, just like the printed word represents the spoken word.
Try some of these activities with your children, and you’ll be developing their early literacy skills and having fun at the same time. Don’t forget to stop by your local library for storytime and to pick out books!