One of my favorite things to do with my grandchildren or with any young child is to read. Reading the words and talking about the pictures is a win-win in my book! I believe it benefits both the reader and the listener.
Current research affirms the years from birth to age 6 are a critical period for developing literacy skills while learning a language, both spoken (expanding vocabulary) and written (learning how print works).
When children have early experiences with books they enjoy, it is a powerful incentive for them to want to learn to read (Sonnenschein, S., & Munsterman,K. 2002. Early Childhood Research Quaterly).
Early literacy looks something like this:
- Talking about the pictures in a board book while holding the infant on your lap. Singing song lyrics and nursery rhymes.
- Pointing to and naming the pictures on the pages over and over again with a toddler. Imitating sounds, describing and feeling different textures, introducing concepts such as shape and color.
- Reading and pointing to the words. Talking about the illustrations in a picture book. Asking the preschooler what might happen next or how might the character feel. Strengthening letter and number recognition.
- Sitting patiently with an emerging reader. Listening. Offering lots of encouragement and some assistance.
Opportunities to share literacy skills with a child are in our everyday routines, too. Recipes, magazines, calendars, newspapers, food packaging, instructions on “how to” (use, repair, assemble, install), store signage, menus, branding on toys, clothing, household items, etc. – the opportunities are endless.
Our oldest grandchild is 4 years old and on a recent visit, he and his Granddad put together a motorized toy car in our garage. Granddad read the instructions step by step to our grandchild while pointing to the words and pictures in the instruction booklet. The process was slow, but so valuable for our grandson who is developing early literacy skills on his way to becoming a reader. Not to mention, the moment was priceless! Listening to our grandson counting the wheels, sort the parts, and helping his grandfather problem solve brought much pride to this grandmother (a.k.a. early childhood professional).
Opportunities to share literacy with a young child are endless and, oh, so valuable!