Promoting Early Literacy
Odds are, you’ve shared a book with a child who is far too young to comprehend what you’re reading. However, just because an infant can’t read or comprehend everything being read to them, doesn’t mean books don’t have anything to offer.
During the first five years children are at peak learning efficiency, in this period 90 percent of brain growth occurs. This makes it a critical time for early reading and literacy support. Reading to your child from birth exposes children to words and supports cognitive development by allowing children to explore colors, textures, sounds and more.
What is Early Literacy?
It’s easy to take for granted how much understanding needs to occur before a child can learn to read. For children, everything is new. When you read to children at an early age, they begin to learn concepts like the process of turning pages and moving through a book from front to back. They’re likely to put the book in their mouth and explore how it feels, smells and tastes.
There are countless concepts that must be mastered before a child can learn to talk, read or even pick up a book. We refer to this period, when children are mastering skills they’ll need to read, as early literacy. It’s a long journey from “do I like putting this in my mouth” to “let me read to you”.
Ways to Support Early Literacy
Babies are born learning. In the first few months, they become aware of language used around them and begin experimenting and building an understanding. While your child may not understand what you’re saying or make a connection between speaking, written words and the books you’ve been told to read to them. They’re observing, watching, listening, touching and retaining information. In fact, young children are able to process and retain far more information than adults.
Here are five ways you can support early literacy with books:
- Read with your child every day beginning at birth. While your infant may not be able to read along, hearing words, exploring books and spending time with parents are very important. Several studies have found a correlation between the amount of words children hear early in life and their later reading achievement.
- Consider whether your child can physically handle the book. While a school-aged child may be able to turn pager pages, but a toddler may require a book with sturdy pages. Babies interact and learn from books differently than older children. They often explore the books by bending, pulling and chewing on pages. Look at special books designed for babies like Indestructible that are soft, durable, washable and non-toxic.
- Attend a story time at your local library. Storytime is a great way to prepare your child for school or preschool environments. It also provides a great time to teach your child how to ask questions and to feel confident about expressing their ideas.
- Introduce your children to both fiction and nonfiction. Unlike adults, children are still piecing together the world around them and enjoy seeing things from their lives in books. You’ll notice they’re often fascinated by books focusing on real-world subjects like animals and geography and occupations.
- If you come across books your book your child wants to read over and over again, keep reading it. Your child is learning a language, repetition is important. Research suggests that reading a few books repeatedly has a greater effect than reading many books only once.