We have all heard how important it is to read to our children. There have been many studies and magazine articles devoted to this subject. Early literacy is one of the best gifts parents or caregivers can give their child.
Early literacy refers to exposing children to books and words at a very young age. Reading to children of all ages (including prenatally) provides them with language skills and development. However, many parents wonder how to continue to encourage reading in their children as babies and throughout early childhood.
One important aspect in encouraging literacy is by parent modeling. When children see their parent or caregiver reading books, magazines and newspapers, the more likely they are to engage in early literacy activities themselves. Young children want to be just like their parents. And this promotes the message to children that reading is not a task, it is enjoyable.
Another important factor is providing many different types of literacy materials in the home. These can include newspapers, magazines, books, picture books, take-out menus from restaurants, writing paper, pencils, pens and so on. This will allow for opportunities for children to choose to pick up these materials, even if it is just to play with it, they are showing interest.
And, of course, we all realize that reading to our children encourages reading and literacy. When reading to your little one, you are improving listening skills, expanding vocabulary, improving memory and other cognitive skills. Additionally, holding your child while you read allows for an attachment activity that is fun for both parent and child.
By taking this concept further, you can make reading even more beneficial for your child. Here are a few tips:
Point to the words and pictures in the story. This can help your child understand that the pictures have names and are symbols in the story as opposed to words that are print.
Use facial expressions, sound effects and pretend voices as you read. Children love to see facial movements and inflections in your voice.
Have your child tell what is happening in the picture. Your child can learn to use his or her imagination to make up stories as well as to get ideas from the picture.
Stop at a certain point in the story and ask your child to fill in the blank or ask what he or she thinks is going to happen next in the story. This can help your child to listen carefully, understand sequence and predict events.
Check with your local library for childrens story hours or to check out books with your child. In addition, the Family Center of Durango has a Book Bag Home Literacy Program. This allows parents to come into the Family Center and check out a bag of books to bring home. It is a free program to encourage reading in the home.
If you would like more information about reading or programs available to promote early literacy, call Jessica at the Family Center at 385-4747.
Jessica Keitz, MSW, LSW is the Family education coordinator for the Family Center of Durango, located at 489½ Florida Road.