Research shows that children can begin learning language as early as birth. Families and caregivers are encouraged to begin fostering this stage of learning, known as emergent literacy, by 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.
Strong reading, writing and communication skills are the basis for all learning subjects. Learning to use and understand language also helps children express their needs, ideas, feelings and communicate with others. It is important for families to help encourage and develop these essential early literacy skills.
How to Encourage Literacy Development at Home
- 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.
If your child has reached reading age, let them choose their own books. By allowing your child to pick out their own book, they will be able to read about topics that they find interesting and want to learn more about and they are will appreciate the different reasons that they chose to read in the first place.
- Model Reading – 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.
Simply talking with your child during your daily activities and naming different objects such as clothing, food items, or traffic signs can help them develop their language skills and build their vocabulary.
In what ways does your family encourage literacy development at home?