Encouraging Your Child’s Language : A Foundation for Literacy

February 12th, 2013 posted by Robert E. Freeman, Ed.S

by Robert E Freeman,Ed.S ©, Copyright 1999

reading My daughter, Alexandra, has been reading since she was around two years old. A genius you might say, but not any different than most children. She wasn’t actually reading, but modeling what she had observed me doing on many occasions. Her favorite “novel” was a J.C. Penney catalog. She would turn the pages and make up stories that fit the pictures. The stories were never the same from day to day, but I knew she was building a vocabulary base that would later have a significant impact on her reading and writing ability. Many parents assume that their children must progress through a sequence of clearly defined skill areas to acquire reading and writing. As a result, young children’s imaginative and creative language is not taken seriously. Because reading and writing is uniquely human, both require sharing, interaction and collaboration which are all interconnected through the use of language. Early parent/child relations and participation patterns are essential for a child to successfully learn to read. Since the foundation of literacy depends on the early social context of a child’s family life, it is vital that opportunities abound for discussions and conversations. In your child’s first years, skill in spoken language develops naturally and easily. Children discover what language does for them; they learn that language is a tool that they can use to understand and interact with others in their environment. The more your child uses language to communicate, the easier it is for them to learn the function and purpose of reading and writing. Here are a few ideas that can help you expand your child’s language horizons.

Literacy Begins At Home

The roots of language begin at home.

  • Literacy learning occurs as young children participate in purposeful and meaningful activities. What may seem boring and uninteresting to an adult can be new and exciting to young children. Discussing everyday experiences with your child helps connect their world to language and enables them to form new ideas and connections.
  • As you dust your furniture have your preschooler describe all the colors they see in the room. Which one is their favorite? Talk about the shapes in the room, which one is the smallest, the largest?
  • When walking down the street stop and ask your toddler questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Which leaves are the same? Which are different? What else grows on trees?
  • Ask “what if” questions. What would happen if we didn’t have sunshine? What would happen if we didn’t have rain?
  • Answer your child’s “why” questions with patience and understanding. This is building their encyclopedia of knowledge.
  • When your child tells you a story ask them questions to get them to think. This helps young children to learn sequencing and analyzing.
  • Let your child help you prepare a grocery list. Take them to the market and have them find the items on the list. As you put away your groceries, encourage your child to read the label (or pictures) they come across.
  • Prepare a meal with your child and let them get the needed items from the shelves. Be patient and give your child the chance to explore the cupboards. Talk about the steps involved in preparing a meal. This is a great way for your child to learn sequencing. Make sure you and the rest of the family applauds your child’s efforts.
  • Expose your child to varied experiences-trips to the library, museum, or zoo; walks in the park; or visits with friends and relatives. Surround these events with lots of comments, questions and answers.

    What’s In A Name?

  • The first connection your child has that language, reading and writing are all interrelated and connected is their name. Use your child’s name to develop an interest in the world of reading and writing. Here are a few exercises you can do with your child.
  • Print the letters of your child’s name on paper. Say each letter as you write it ” A…L…E…X…A…N…D…R…A” and then have your child repeat the letters with you. Tell the child that’s their name.
  • Let your child draw a picture of anything they choose. Then say, “Let’s put your name on your picture.” As you write the letters again, repeat them out loud. This is learning by association and teaches your child ownership of what they create.
  • Use magnetic letters and spell out your child’s name on the refrigerator door. Put your child’s name on construction paper and tape to their bedroom door. Write their first name in large print in the front of their books.

    Family Stories

  • Have your child tell you stories about what happened on special days, such as holidays, birthdays, and family vacations. Repetition builds vocabulary literacy and teaches the child organization and sequencing.
  • Tell your child stories about your parents and grandparents. Show pictures of them if you have some. You might even put these pictures and stories in a book. Make the book together.
  • Reminisce about when you were little. Show pictures of yourself to your child, and relate some of your feelings about that particular time in your life. Describe things that happened at school or talk about what your favorite things to do were. Tell your child about your brothers and sisters or friends.
  • Keep a trip journal with your child when you’re on vacation. Record each day’s special event and paste an accompanying picture into the journal.

    Create A Personal Library

  • Children model important figures in their life. Reading aloud to your child and letting them see you read are two of the best ways to help them on the road to literacy. When children read along and listen to stories they form visual and phonetic connections to the written word. Make collecting books and reading them an important family activity.
  • Visit the local library and get a library card in your child’s name. Take them to the children’s section and spend time sitting on the floor reading and selecting books to take home.
  • Designate a bookcase or shelf at home especially for your child. Encourage him or her to arrange the books in some logical order for example place all books about bears, toys or holidays together.
  • Help your child make their own books, even if they’re just pictures to begin with.
  • Keep your eye out for inexpensive books at flea markets, and yard sales. Many public libraries sell old books once a year.

The Last Word The process of literacy begins almost from infancy. Promote your child’s language development by offering numerous informal opportunities for your child to observe, explore, and experiment with language. It’s important to remember that small children generally learn best while playing, rather than by being instructed. Knowing this, you should involve your child in lots of day-to-day activities and conversations that will help them develop their literacy. You are your child’s first and most influential teacher. Alexandra is now 7 years old and doing extremely well in the second grade. She loves reading and has left the J.C. Penney’s catalog for Christmas shopping. Reading above her grade level, I am positive that Alexandra’s early language experiences set the firm foundation for her reading ability. Parents concerned with the reading development of their child should use techniques that create a rich and varied language environment. Mom and dad it’s much better for your child to talk too much, than to talk too little. So remember parents talk, talk, talk, to and with your children.

Robert E. Freeman, Ed.S (1 Posts)


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