BY LESLIE POYTHRESS
Beginning reading instruction for young children begins not in schools, but in the home. According to Barbara Wasik at the Carolina Family Literacy Center, family literacy is “naturally occurring informal practices within the home, family, and community and formal practices exemplified by organized instruction usually linked with educational settings.” Family literacy should begin in the womb and continue throughout childhood.
By reading with and to your child often, you will help him/her develop an awareness of phonemes. This means that your child will begin to have a grasp of the fact that words are made up of somewhat separable sound segments. Along with this will come a beginning association of letters and with their specific sounds. Most importantly, your child will begin to develop a love for reading as you model interest and enthusiasm as you read together.
Keep in mind that children learn to read with a variety of materials and methods. Vary your approach to helping your toddler begin to develop skills that will help him/her to become a lifelong reader. Below are some ideas to develop pre-literacy skills in your toddler:
* Model good reading habits. Children that see adults reading are more apt to read themselves. Let them see that reading can be both pleasurable and purposeful.
* Provide quality children’s literature in the home. You do not have to purchase expensive books to have good literature. Be on the look out for yard sales and book drives and take advantage of already loved books. Have a cozy reading chair or beanbag to personalize your child’s reading area.
* Vary the type of printed material your child has available. Children’s magazines, catalogs, greeting cards, and comic books all provide interesting information for young children.
* Visit your local library. It only takes a few minutes to check out books that interest your child.
* Read to your child daily. Let him or her choose the book selection of the evening. Often times the same book will be read day in and day out until the child knows the pages by heart. Even children who read fluently love to be read to.
* When children are beginning to take an interest in books, it is sometimes difficult to step back and watch. We often want to make them turn the pages the right way, one at a time. It is important to let them take control.
* Have siblings read to one another. An older child can develop reading skills while reading to a younger brother or sister who is sure to love the attention.
* Link ideas in books to real life experiences. When reading about a trip to the park, talk about a trip your child has taken.
* Get wordless books and create your own stories to go along with the pages.
* Ask questions as you read. Keep in mind the W & H questions: Who, what, where, why, and how.
* Point out signs, labels, and logos to your child. Children learn to recognize and “read” these items from repeated exposure.
* Label items in your child’s room or throughout the house. Place a sticky note on the door, television, light, mirror and other areas to help increase sight word recognition.
* Get books that come with audiotapes for the car and home. Children love to listen to narrators tell stories as they turn the pages.
* Teach your child nursery rhymes, finger plays, and chants. These make great time fillers as you are waiting in the grocery line or in traffic. You can find classic rhymes and chants at http://www.enchantedlearning.com
* Use the Internet to access stories with interactive illustrations, coloring sheets, and games. Many storybooks and activities can be found at http://magickeys.com/books/index.html
* Having children “write” about their favorite stories can enhance any story. Drawing shapes and designs, forming letters, even creating nonsense pictures all help with reading and writing. Have your child tell the story after creating the picture for a special treat.
* Look for food items that help teach letter recognition. Many items like cereal, soup, and spaghetti come in letter shapes. Turn dinner time into learning time as you try and capture different letters.
* Hands-on activities make learning letters fun! Put salt in a shoe box and trace letters with your fingers. For a messy game, put shaving cream on a cookie sheet to practice letter shapes. Cut out letters from coarse sandpaper and trace the shapes together.
* You can find many activities to help your child learn letters online. Try the following website: http://www.coloring.ws/alphabet.htm
* Most importantly, share your love of reading with your child!