Early Literacy Skills: Dear Diary…

Book cover for Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin ScillianWhen I was little, I hated to go to bed. I think bedtime stories were read every night without fail not just because my parents were big readers, but also because they had calculated I needed approximately 2.25 hours to be tricked into going to sleep. While I have only the fondest memories of “Corduroy” and “Madeline,” my favorite bedtime ritual was actually a kind of game my father and I began to play together.

Dad would ask me what had happened while he had been at work that day. Some nights I was very creative.

“Well, when we all woke up, we decided it would be fun to go to Disney World. So we did. We got on a plane, and Alex was scared, but I was not. Then we met Mickey and rode everything three times! Then we decided we wanted to take a train back to Kirksville because it was time for naps, so we did…”

Some nights I took the job more seriously and regaled my father with a more truthful, (painfully) detailed account. “First, I woke up. I had cereal for breakfast. It was Lucky Charms. I don’t remember what Alex ate. I was still been wearing my pink nightgown…Daddy, you know which pink nightgown! My favorite pink nightgown that I wear when I play ballerina…”

My father is a patient man.

But what I did not realize at the time – especially as I had not yet been on a plane, a train or to Disney World – was that I was learning to tell a story. And what can 3- to 5-year-olds talk about better than themselves, their daily activities and things they want to do? Continue reading

Early Literacy Skills: The Power of Print

Book cover for Apple by Nikki McClureWords 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

Early Literacy Skills: Tell Me a Story

The_Book by DarrelBirkett via FlickrYou 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

Early Literacy Skills: A Is for Apple

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

Early Literacy Skills: Upbeat About Books

Book cover for What Do You Do With a Tail Like This by Steve JenkinsBook cover for Trashy Town by Andrea ZimmermanYou 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