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Dawn LaBrosse: Simple Things Parents Can Do to Prepare Young Children to Read

Youth services coordinator for the county of Washington in Minnesota and mother of 2. She coordinates the youth, teen, family programs and does regular story-time across 7 locations. Been a children’s librarian for 12 years. Studied at St. Thomas in Literature and got a Masters degree. Always wanted to be a librarian. Took classes in youth librarianship and can’t imagine doing anything else. Story-time is her happy place. Her kids are 5 and 7. They read together every day. She and her husband like to read the same books and have a mini book club.

Dawn is very passionate about early literacy because when you start looking at all that a child needs to know before they enter school, it’s amazing what they need to know and the power that caregivers have to introduce their child to language. She loves modeling ideas and showing parents what they can do to help children.

In the library world we talk about 5 activities parents can do with their child every day. These may be things they already do, and this just affirms that they are on the right track. The 5 activities are: Reading, writing, talking, singing and playing daily together. Parents and caregivers are their child’s first and best teacher.

The main part of reading is showing the importance of reading to you. Have books throughout the house ( a print rich environment). Children have to decode the words and understand. Keep it a positive and fun experience- that is the single most important thing you can do that will give your child an intrinsic love for reading.

From the moment children are born we need to start this, and even in utero. The more language kids are exposed to, the better. Sometimes parents think this is just a baby, but that doesn’t matter. Parents are modeling communication. Every time they listen they are learning and being shown how communication works. They are taught the concepts of conversation. There is so much that you are exposing them to just by talking to them. Sometimes parents don’t feel comfortable talking to them. Give your child a chance to respond even if they aren’t able to verbally respond. By the time children from low income families reach the age of 3, they will have heard 30 million less words than their peers. This has a ripple effect as they go on through school. The power that parents have to expose them is incredibly important.

Children are introduced to so much first through books. Think about how many animals children can name that they have never seen. They are introduced to them through books.

Writing is especially important to model. Children don’t see us write that often. Adults used to write a lot more, but now we use our phone or tablets. Children can also help with these things. With really young children, it’s about getting fine motor skills and getting that pincer grip. Children don’t always have those fine motor skills now because they are often used to swiping but they don’t have as much practice using crayons or pencils. Parents can think of activities like finger plays that help develop fine motor skills. (like Itsy Bitsy Spider) Also, look at other ways to write. Writing can be done with shaving cream in the bathtub. Playful learning is a fun way to incorporate different ways of building those finger muscles.

Part of having print awareness is knowing that we read from left to right. This is an early literacy skill that we can take for granted. Recognizing that we read left to right is an early milestone. One way that we can build this skill is having children use their arm for example and cross that arm in front of them to the other side, or cross to the other leg. This is using both sides of the body together and helps pathways in the brain develop. This is developed by crossing the midline of the body. Pretend play can also be used here, to do something like pretend to mix.

Keep it fun, incorporate playful learning. Children aren’t necessarily going to learn letters with flashcards. You can make it fun by playing letter games and using simple fun ways to incorporate knowledge. Playful learning is memorable learning. If children can connect with their learning in many ways, they are going to make more connections in their brains.

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