Everyone agrees that reading is vital to a child’s success. Research shows that there are six early literacy skills that are essential to creating a solid foundation for learning to read: print motivation, print awareness, phonological awareness, vocabulary, letter knowledge and narrative skills – in other words – read, sing and talk.
By adding these elements to your parent-child time, you will be preparing your child for reading and learning. It does not cost any money; it only costs your time.
Read, beginning at birth. Aren’t babies too young to understand if you read to them? Yes, but you are not reading for comprehension. You are reading so your child get used to hearing different words (vocabulary skills), hears the rhythm of your reading (phonological awareness skills) while looking at a book together (print awareness skills). You will create a pleasurable interaction. You want your child to associate good times with reading and books (print motivation skills). If you create that association, you have created the motivation for the hard work of learning to read. And as the baby grows, reading together will also encompass letter knowledge and more print motivation and print awareness skills.
Sing, beginning at birth. Singing a song reinforces what talking and reading do. You are not creating a musical genius, and you do not have to be pitch perfect to sing to your child. You are having fun while you teach your child words, rhythm and rhymes. Some songs tell stories (narrative skills), play with language (phonological awareness skills) and soothe. Besides being fun, songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “The Wheels on the Bus” teach your child about American culture. When they reach kindergarten, teachers expect them to know these kinds of things.
Talk, beginning at birth. A baby is ready to learn from day one. By talking to the baby, you are letting your child hear language. This is the time when sound bits called phonemes (phonological awareness skills) are learned. Children learn the special sounds of language: English, Spanish, Chinese, French or any other spoken language. By listening to Mama or Daddy talking to them, they will hear the tonal quality of the language.
Do It Every Day. Read, sing and talk have to be done every day. Early learning needs to be reinforced on a daily basis or it will fade away. Weekly story times at the library are valuable, but they are not enough. Mama, Daddy, Caregiver: They all need to read, sing and talk to young ones every day. It doesn’t have to be a long session. In fact, several short sessions are better than one long one. When you’re waiting for a bus, waiting in line at the grocery store, having a bath, going to bed – talk about what is going to happen or what has happened that day. Sing a nursery rhyme or song. Pull out a book and talk about it or read it or have her tell you the story (or make up a new one). This is time invested in your child’s future successes.
With a public library card, all the materials you need are free. Make a visit a regular event because libraries have board books, picture books and CDs. Most libraries offer weekly story times, too. A routine of regularly attending story times and borrowing books and music will prepare your child to see books as a valued part of regular life, not just something associated with school.
May you and your child enjoy days of reading, singing and talking!
Cynthia M. Olsen is the Youth Services Manager at the Eugene Public Library. She has worked to instill a love of reading for fun and knowledge in all ages for more than 20 years. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org