Reading Together to Build Early Literacy
Did you know that you can help your child get ready to read even while his very young? When an infant shows excitement over pictures next to his crib, or a toddler turns the pages of a board book, or a preschooler recognizes the first letter of his name on a cereal box, each is demonstrating emerging literacy skills. Reading to your child from birth is the best way to make him a successful reader when he starts school.
Developing language is the first step in learning to read, and it occurs very early in life. When you read to your child from the time she is born, you provide a rich language environment for her. Your child hears words that may not occur in the normal course of the day increasing her exposure to a wide variety of speech sounds. When you cradle your baby and read with infliction in your voice, your child learns to associate reading with love, comfort and pleasure - the beginning of a positive attitude which provides motivation for learning to read.
Toddlers have the reputation for being on the go, and you may be discouraged in your attempts to read to your child during this stage of development. But toddlers learn important things from reading - they just learn them standing up! Children this age like books that have photos of objects and text that names the pictures. Nursery rhymes and books with rhyming text are important because rhyming promotes the awareness of letter sounds, which is necessary for reading. Toddlerhood is the time to learn how to handle a book, such as holding the book right side up and turning paper pages.
As children enter the preschool years, they develop an appreciation of the plot and characters of a story. Exposure to quality picture books increases your child's enjoyment of reading and engages his imagination. More complex stories build your child's comprehension skills and provide a knowledge base from which he can understand concepts and new ideas. Skills such as identifying the title of the book, tracing text with a finger while it is read, talking about pictures, and speculating about where the plot is going are setting the stage for learning to read in the early years of school. Literacy also develops when your child sees printed words in his environment, such as signs, lists, menus or labels. When you read this "environmental print" to your child, you show him that reading is important in every day life.