Literacy: The Speaker
I, like most parents, want my children to have all the tools they need to be successful in this world. And, what we know, is that literacy is so important in both academic and life pursuits. As a parent, and an early childhood educator, I know that we need to support children in becoming strong readers and writers.
This sounds like a relatively simple task. But, there is so much more than meets the eyes. In some ways, literacy is like walking in that it is a complex blend of learning skills and development. And, like walking, a child who accomplishes the skill earlier, is not necessarily better. Now both in their early 20s, my daughter who walked at ten months is not a better “walker” than my son who walked at 14 months. Instead, both were provided with the support and tools they needed as young children, and now they are both pretty solid “walkers.”
The same holds true for literacy. It is not a race. The goal should not be to get a child there sooner, but to make sure they get there well, with all the tools they need. A child who is excited about reading, instead of apprehensive or frustrated, is so much more likely to approach learning it with gusto.
In the world of literacy, there are three important components: oral language, reading and writing. Throughout this month, we will look at all three. We will also examine how a caring adult can support the development of these skills.
Oral language is the foundation for reading and writing. As with constructing any structure, the more solid you make the foundation, the more sturdy the building will be. Studies have shown repeatedly that children who enter Kindergarten with more words in their vocabulary are more successful in their academic pursuits.
Understanding that the words we say have meaning and serve to communicate is an important step in literacy. Having access to more words gives your child a step up in becoming literate. Brick by brick, parents can help their child construct a solid foundation of words.
- Talk about things you do and see.
- Ask children questions that require more than a one word answer.
- How do you think that happened?
- What do you notice?
- What do you think would happen if?
- Read wonderful stories with your child.
- Use different words for common ones.
- What word can you use instead of “big” in conversation?
- What words can you use to describe that tree?
- Is that green or chartreuse?
- Turn off the DVD player in the car, and talk and sing during your drive times.
All of these simple ideas serve to build that strong foundation of oral language. Nothing can replace the brain stimulation that happens when your child interacts with another human being — ideally, you. No electronic game or form of media can replace the learning that happens as you and your child relate with each other.
Do you want to help your child down this path of literacy? Skip all of the fancy “teaching” toys that promise to make your child a reader. Instead, give them the free (yet wonderful) world of words. There is almost nothing more amusing and gratifying than hearing your six-year-old daughter say, “that house is a little ostentatious, right mom?” while you are riding down the street.