Literacy Development in the Early Years: How Parents can Help at Home

Literacy Development in the Early Years: How Parents can Help at Home

Once children are off to preschool, or school, many parents tend to leave it to the teacher to work on pre-reading skills, and trust that their young child is learning what they need to in school.

The truth is, that learning is a triad of student, family, and school. All three must be invested to bring out the best in a child. Promoting early literacy at home, after children are school age, is just as important as it was in the early development years. It’s also important to demonstrate that you support your child’s school teachings and their teacher.

Here are some great ways to facilitate pre-reading, reading, and reading comprehension at home. I have found these to be very successful over my years of teaching and working with families in all areas.

Teach lowercase letters first. It’s far easier to explain what capitalization is for, than is is to have to go back and explain why they now have to stop using uppercase all the time, and it just makes sense, since we don’t write in all caps. Uppercase will come along not long after, as they will learn to recognize it as another form of the letters they already know.

Teach the letter sounds phonetically, before the alphabet “names”. Learning the letter sounds before the letter names only makes sense when learning to read. For example “car” cannot be sounded out, if the first letter is “cee”. The letter names with come easily afterward. Once children know the letter sounds, then you can say “Cee says C” etc.

Read to them. I cannot stress this enough. Begin reading as soon as young children can sit still long enough, and have special books that you read together over and over again. Repetition is key so that children can begin to fill in missing words when you pause, and can also learn what is coming next. This is important for reading comprehension.

For older children, another really important thing to include in your reading times, is discussion of the story afterward. Ask simple questions about what happens in the book, or what might have happened instead, etc. One of the biggest difficulties I have encountered in children who can “read” is that they do not necessarily understand what they have read, and are simply going through the motions. Reading comprehension is imperative for problem solving, and the goal in reading is to derive meaning. Developing these skills is essential to a rich academic life and for life in general.

Teach with both sight words and phonetics. Some words, especially those with digraphs and blends, don’t always make sense by sounding them out, so the best way to learn them, is simply by memorizing and recognizing them. Teaching with both techniques is most efficient.

Watch for readiness. To begin with (for a toddler for example), just labeling things around the house and using a lot of engaging language is a good place to start. It won’t be long before they are pointing to the labels and asking you what they say or mean, or simply recognizing them on their own. Keep in mind that language development is directly related to literacy development. There is something we refer to as “book language”, which encourages proper sentence structure, grammar, and intonation.
A child who has been read to often and exposed to different reading materials (books, labels, poetry, etc) is immediately recognizable in the classroom. Understanding the make up of words and sentences, will lead straight into having strong spelling and story writing skills when the time comes. Don’t forget to work on that Pincer Grip and fine motor skills, so they are prepared!

Work closely with the teacher to make sure your child is keeping up with what they are working on in school and so that home and school are on the same page. It’s important to build a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with them, so that everyone is on board and you know if there is anything you should be working on at home.

Doing a few things that are neither labor, nor time intensive, can set the stage for successful life long learning! Most of all, remember to have fun with books and teach children to respect books and the process of reading!

Live Well.