There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is best of all.
– Jaqueline Kennedy
The foundations for language and reading are built early in a child’s life. Children need to learn to identify letters and letter sounds and have a wide vocabulary before they can put the pieces together to read words and sentences.
There are plenty of ways families can encourage a strong reading foundation for their children.
Here are some fun, simple tips for sneaking literacy into every day:
This is the easiest way to give children a head start at reading. Reading with your child instills a love of reading and stories. It helps them build their vocabulary and learn patterns of spoken and written language.
Make reading part of your daily routine. Books at bedtime are a great way to wind down while getting some reading in. Try keeping books in every room of the house. It will encourage your child to pick up books throughout the day.
There are no right or wrong books to choose from. Read anything your child enjoys! Your local librarian can help you find new and exciting picture books as well as new classics you may have missed in recent years.
Don’t worry about repetition. Kids need to repeat things to cement their learning. If your child has a favorite book and wants to read it every night, that’s ok!
Storytelling builds a variety of literacy skills, including visualization, cognitive engagement, critical thinking, and story sequencing ability. Each of these skills is important for both listening and reading comprehension.
Children learn best by listening, especially at a young age. Families can engage in storytelling to teach children important lessons. In fact, some cultures use storytelling to teach their children how to manage their emotions and be safe.
If storytelling seems overwhelming, start with true stories about your family history. Kids will enjoy hearing about their parents’ childhoods and how life was different in the past. You can also try co-storytelling. Start a story with a strong beginning, and then ask your child “What happened next?” Go back and forth to create a fun and engaging story.
Cooking is an easy way to incorporate literacy into the day. Have children locate ingredients in the pantry by recognizing the letters on the labels. For example, if your child knows what the letter “F” looks like, they can find “flour” on the shelf.
You can also read the recipe aloud to your child. One important developmental milestone is the ability to remember multi-step directions. Recipes are a great way to practice this skill, which also supports literacy as children get older.
Try a literacy scavenger hunt! There are many ways you can play this game at home. Here are some variations:
- Ask your child to find something in the room that starts with a certain letter sound. For example, you can say “Can you find something that sounds like “buh, buh, buh?” The child might identify a ball or a bed.
- If children are beginning to learn letter identification, have them find letters throughout the house. You can play this game together, wandering around and pointing out letters as you go.
- For children who are learning their letters and letter sounds, ask them to find objects that begin with certain letters. For example, you might say “Can you find something that starts with the letter F?” The child might find a fork or a stuffed frog toy.
- Children can also play these games independently with a digital camera or smartphone and take pictures of the objects or letters they find. Then you can review their pictures together.
Road Trip Games
Time spent in the car doesn’t have to be time wasted! Look out the window and see what letters you can find on the road signs. The “alphabet game” is great for this: start with A and work your way to Z.
You can also narrate your surroundings for your child. This can help them learn new vocabulary words and identify objects and places in their community. As you drive through the neighborhood, point out what you see, or ask your child to share their observations.