Research shows that parents, caregivers, and family members can begin fostering an interest in reading, writing, and language as early as birth. It’s acquired through time spent talking, telling stories, and singing. Surrounding a child in a language rich environment with lots of attention, interaction and lots of things to see and do in their space also is essential to literacy development.
These casual interactions form the base on which a child’s understanding of language grows.
Spend Time Reading to Your Child
Reading to a child is perhaps the greatest gift that parents and family members can give. Allowing the child to see, touch, and play with the book while you are reading creates interest and a true emotional connection between language and the feelings of being comforted and supported.
Children should be encouraged to try to read along, to say the memorized parts of their favorite books, to point to the pictures and to ask questions. As children get older, discussions and “what if” questions about the pictures and the story will springboard into creative thinking activities.
It is important for children to see that their family members choose to spend some of their time reading. As children get older and their attention span lengthens, the entire family might decide to have some quiet reading time together. It is important for parents to set aside their distractions during this time to model reading by focusing on their book. Setting a “reading break” once in a while will allow family members to discuss the books they are reading with each other.
Tell Stories and Encourage Imagination
Even before children can read, they love to tell stories. This should be encouraged without any demands regarding the structure of the story. Just let the children explore their imagination out loud. You might also want to write down their story and have them create some artwork to illustrate it. This allows you to keep a record of their stories and also provides children with something to share when others come to visit.