PARENTS SUPPORTING LITERACY & LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT IN PRESCHOOLERS
As parents, an important goal we all set for our children is that of becoming a proficient reader and writer. To help support literacy and language development parents frequently spend time researching the best matched preschools and child care centers, subsequently enrolling in chosen one, as a way to achieve success for their children. However, the most important early childhood teacher is, you the parent!
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
Have daily conversations with your child
Speaking and listening lay the foundation for reading and writing. So have meaningful conversations daily with your child. When you have a conversation with your child, take turns listening and talking. Remember, conversation means two-way communication. Also remember to be patient and listen to what your child has to say even if you have to wait for your child to form the words and ideas. Your patience will help your child feel free to talk.
Encourage the development of language and literacy by personalizing your conversations. Children like to talk about themselves, their interests, and their feelings. If you talk about things that your child cares about, and listen as he or she talks, your child will be an eager, natural speaker. Also do things together that naturally encourage conversation. For example look at family pictures and talk about the people and family celebrations. Join your child’s pretend play, but let your child be the leader. Provide materials and share in your child’s favorite activities, such as drawing, building with blocks, racing toy cars, baking cookies. Be an active participant with your child!
Improve the conversations you have with your child by making encouraging comments, such as “I see you made a blue circle”, or “the building you made is so tall”. Also repeat comments your child may say, “You’re so happy Cara asked you for a play date!” Ask your child questions as you converse, “How did you make that tower?” Remember though that too many questions tend to stifle a conversation so keep the conversations natural and flowing.
Be sure to enjoy the sounds of language! You can build your child’s knowledge of the sounds that go with each letter through enjoyable activities such as reading nursery rhymes, like “The Eensy, Weensy Spider. Such are filled with the sounds and rhymes of language (eensy and weensy, spout and out). Children love to make up new rhymes from old. Change a word in a familiar rhyme or song and ask your child to supply a new ending that rhymes. “Jack be nimble, Jack be red, Jack jump over the ___.” Fill in one or two examples yourself, then give your child a turn. if your child makes up a nonsense word that rhymes (“Jack be silly, Jack jump over pilly” ), accept the answer and laugh with your child. It demonstrates your child understands rhyming.
Point out the individual sounds in words. This promotes what reading experts call phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is knowing that words are made up of sequences of individual sounds. Phonics, the next step in learning to read, is knowing sound-letter relationships. For example you might say “Mommy and muffin. Those both start with the mmm sound, that’s the letter m.” Or, emphasize the /b/ sound when you say “Barbara is putting butter on her bagel.” Also when you say the sound of a letter, such as /b/, avoid adding the “uh” sound after it.
Another fun activity to reinforce literacy and language development is to play games with alliteration, that is, with words that start with the same sound. Emphasize the /s/ sound in “You painted a super silly snowman.” Or, put three objects that start with the /b/ sound in a bag ( such as a ball, bell, block ). Guessing games are also fun. “I’m thinking of something in the refrigerator that starts with the /m/ sound – mmm.
Sing songs, tell stories, recite rhymes, and move to rhythmic chants. When you do these things, you are helping your child develop what reading experts call phonological awareness. It means knowing the sounds of language. Music is another way to introduce your child to word sounds. Repeated words and simple rhymes in familiar songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” help make children aware of the sounds that make up these words. Another fun activity is to make up new songs to familiar tunes. For instance sing “We’re going to the boardwalk” to “Did You Ever See a Lassie.” Let your child make up new words to match what you are doing.
Simply by modeling important literacy habits for your child you promote learning. Reading stories, singing songs, and saying silly rhymes that your child loves all make your child aware of the sounds in words – an important skill in learning to read and write.
Young children read and write in many different ways. They begin by recognizing familiar drawings and symbols in their environment. For example, they know the meaning of a Stop Sign, Exit Sign, traffic signal, a store sign etc…. They start by pretend reading a favorite book by describing the pictures or reciting parts of a story from memory. By displaying these behaviors children show us that they understand the idea of print and that it is used to communicate. In the HighScope classroom we support emergent reading by implementing the following key experiences in language and literacy.
HighScope Preschool Key Experiences in Language and Literacy
Speaking and Listening
1. Talking with others about personally meaningful experiences
2. Describing objects, events, and relations
3. Having fun with language : listening to stories and poems, making up stories and rhymes
Reading and Writing
1. Reading in various ways: reading storybooks, signs and symbols, one’s own writing
2. Writing in various ways: drawing, scribbling, letter-like forms, writing words based on word sounds, conventional forms
3. Dictating stories
As children progress on the developmental continuum we next notice that they grasp the idea of letters. Preschoolers learn that letters stand for sounds and that letters make up words. This understanding develops when children have many experiences that link spoken and written language, such as being read to and having their thoughts written down by an adult.
We also notice that young children write in many different ways. As fine motor skills develop young children start to draw and write with crayons, markers, paints and various other writing materials. They first make scribbles and then draw pictures. Later they make scribbles that look like letters. Eventually children write real letters, often beginning with the letters in their first name. As children learn more letters and their sounds, they try to spell or sound out words. They write words based on the sounds they can hear in the words, usually first and last letter sound first and eventually they learn conventional spelling.
So how can parents and guardians of young children lay the foundation for a solid and enjoyable educational beginning? Well most importantly you do not want to drill them or make them recite memorized lists. Learning to read and write should always be pleasurable, not tedious!
Literacy comes from a wide variety of language experiences such as speaking, listening, reading, and writing. By exploring the sounds of language in many different ways you will help your child make the connection between speech and print. Early reading and writing experiences will be meaningful and lasting if they build on children’s natural desire to communicate with the people close to them and to learn about the world around them. Young children need lots of experiences using language in their play and daily routines, and they need repeated exposure to the written word. However they do not need formal lessons but rather informal everyday interactions and activities that promote literacy
12 Things Parents Can Do to Help Their Preschooler Become a Reader
1. Have daily conversations with your child
2. Keep lots of printed materials and writing materials in your home
3. Set up a reading and writing space for your child
4. Let your child see you read and write
5. Read with your child everyday.
6. Call your child’s attention to reading nd writing in everyday activities.
7. Make a message board.
8. Encourage your child to “read”.
9. Display your child’s writing
10. Make a word bank or file of words your child likes to write (word wall).
11. Go to the library with your child
12. Use television and technology wisely
Make Time To Talk
In school teachers know that it’s important to talk everyday with each child, using the kind of talk that builds language and thinking skills. Making time to talk helps young children learn new words and how to use language and how to tell you their ideas and needs, and that helps them have fun with language!
This make time to talk practice should also continue at home. Mealtimes can be good times to talk with children. Ask questions that encourage the child to think, questions involving predicting things that might happen, using imagination, explaining why things happened in a particular way. Be sure to converse with your child at eye level making eye contact. Extend your conversation with your child. Conversations should go back and forth with each person responding to the other. Tell stories to your child and ask them to tell you stories about their day in school and school friends.
Involve your children in group conversations at the dinner table. Make connections between learning units and themes at school, activities at home, books read at school as well as home, and your child’s own play to help build their understanding of word meanings.
Expand on your child’s language by repeating it with extensions ( adding descriptive words, using any words correctly that your child used incorrectly, adding to or building on the child’s ideas. Remember two-way conversations are best. Your child should be doing at least half the talking.
Texts such as books, posters, newspapers, and magazines provide things to talk about with children. Read them together, asking questions and discussing them as you go along. Act out stories with children, re-using words from a book you read aloud together. Encourage your child to retell the story with puppets, toys, and in their art.
Lastly language should include rich varied words that you want your child to learn to understand and use. Keep the conversation going through questions and comments. Make time to talk!