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.