Words represent things. When I present you with the word apple, no matter whether the piece of fruit that appears in your head is red or green, you know what the letters a-p-p-l-e mean. This seemingly obvious concept is one all of us have to be taught. Print awareness, which includes simply noticing words everywhere and knowing how to handle a book, is an important early literacy skill to encourage in young children.
When you read a picture book like Nikki McClure’s “Apple,” chances are your young child is focusing on the beautiful illustrations, the fruit a splash of red that appears on each page. From time to time, point to the words as you read so that your child learns you are reading the text, not the pictures. If a book has a repeating word or phrase, point it out and encourage the child to say it each time it appears on the page. Let the child turn the pages, so your little one learns how a book actually works, which way the spine should face and which part of the book is its beginning.
Show your child that print is all around us. Point out signs in the grocery store or along the road. When your child starts yelling “S-T-O-P spells stop!” from the backseat, you’ll know you are successfully developing her print awareness! Continue reading
You have read “Goodnight Moon” 500 times, and you know it by heart. Your child loves the book so much that he can tell you the story without even knowing how to read. While this repetitiveness may seem like torture to you, it actually is a good thing. Narrative skill, or the ability to tell stories, is one of the tools your child needs to start reading.
Knowing that stories have a beginning, middle and end, and the ability to talk about activities in a sequence are important to developing narrative skills. Want to make a story more fun? Act it out! Acting out a story helps your child understand and remember the order of events in the story. One of the favorites in our household is “Mud Puddle” by Robert Munsch. I love to pretend to be the mud puddle and get my son “completely all over muddy.” Continue reading
I’m convinced that children are made for poetry. They are geared toward finding delight in the everyday, infuse common objects with magic and are hard-wired for play. And so much of poetry is indeed playful.
Literacy experts tell us that teaching children the joys of playing with language will help set them on the path to becoming confident readers, and poetry is a great tool for encouraging children to enjoy the sounds of words. Poems emphasize the rhythm of language and the ways individual sounds make up words. In “Reading Magic,” author Mem Fox argues, “Rhymers will be readers. It’s that simple. Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are 8.”
Not all poetry rhymes, of course, but reading non-rhyming poems can also benefit children. Poems often introduce new vocabulary through unusual or interesting word choices, and rich visual imagery can stimulate a child’s imagination, spurring them to see the world around them in a new way.
April is National Poetry Month, and April 18 in particular is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Encourage the kids in your life to choose a favorite poem, copy it on a piece of paper, and then share it throughout the day. Celebrate further by exploring books of poetry together. Your library has a number of poems for children, both in picture books that illustrate a single poem and in anthologies. Check out our catalog list of recommended poetry for children, and if you have a favorite poem, please share it in the comments!
When my kiddo was younger, I wanted him to know the alphabet. In fact, I was so intent on him recognizing letters that I didn’t even think about how not-fun my approach was. I would demand, “What letter is that? You don’t remember which one that is?” I can’t believe I wondered why he didn’t want to “practice” the alphabet. I know that learning through fun and play works much better than drills, so I tried a different tactic. I checked out an alphabet book from the library (one of many). I took it home and let him choose a page to look at. Continue reading
You sit down with your baby and a board book, and she listens for a bit but then tries to eat it or throw it. Or maybe she uses it as a drum. Don’t despair—at this early stage on the road to reading, it’s okay if babies listen and look at the pictures for a while and then lose interest. Stay positive and simply try again another time. If your baby enjoys these short interactions with you and the book, you are actually promoting early literacy!
To support your young child along the path to reading independently, help him or her develop a positive association with books. Researchers call this interest in reading and the enjoyment of books “print motivation.” When you are reading a book with your child, follow these tips for making the experience fun and engaging. Continue reading