Your Child's Best Teacher: YOU Apr 23, 2014
Learning to read begins at birth. And children learn best from the adults with which they have a personal relationship. Research shows that during the first three years of life, innumerable neural pathways are being built, language is developing, and motor skills are improving.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway*, “by the time children are 3, their brains have approximately 1,000 trillion synapses, many more than they will ever need. Some of these synapses are strengthened and remain intact, but many are gradually discarded.” This indicates that an extremely large amount of information can be gathered in these earliest stages of life!
So, during these first three critical years, children are, for the most part, not in school or in any other formal educational environment. Who best to make sure as many neural pathways as possible are being created? The adults, of course! This gets them ready to read.
Parents, grandparents, and other adults, don’t be discouraged. Even though you may not feel like an early literacy expert, as long as you are exploring language with your children, you are already being good teachers to your children.
Here are ways to PLAY, READ, TALK, SING, WRITE and get your child ready to read:
- · PLAY: Talk with your child about how s/he is playing with their props or toys. Telling stories help with narrative skills which gets them more comfortable reading later on, and detailed descriptions help with vocabulary. Play in general is a great way to learn! Make sure you child has time to play and explore. Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales is a fun book to support play in learning to read.
- · READ: Reading out loud teaches them about print awareness—that there are words that are made up by letters, and how these words make up a book. Kids aren’t born knowing about print—we teach them. Not only are they learning book structure and print, they also learn more vocabulary from books than they would in our everyday conversation. Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier is a good book to support these skills.
- · TALK: Talking with children is a way to develop language, hear the sounds of words (phonological awareness), and build narrative skills. By talking, kids start to learn how stories work: that there is a beginning, middle and end as well as action and conflict. Adults—tell your stories to children and talk about your day. A good way to talk about a story is ask “What do you think will happen next?” Moo! by David LaRochelle is good book that supports these skills.
- · SING: If you aren’t able to sing with your child, expose them to kid songs anyways. Music is necessary for young ones to learn phonological awareness, or the sounds that make up words. Kids learn these sounds, which gets them ready to read, and music boosts memory and supports vocabulary development. Nighty-night Cooper by Laura Numeroff is a great book to practice honing these skills.
- · WRITE: Even if your child is developmentally not ready to write, beginning drawing and modeling letters gets them ready to read. Play with forming letters in a secured ziplock bag of colored hair gel, or form letters in shaving cream on a baking sheet. Include your child in adult writing life like making grocery lists, so they see how writing is used. The Things I Can Do by Jeff Mack is a fun book to illustrate writing.
Hopefully, these tips are not only helpful to get your child ready to read, but they are affirming the good things you do with your children already. After all, you are your child’s first, best teacher!
*Child Welfare Information Gateway – www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/issue_briefs/brain_development/how.cfm