Literary skills start very young. With children birth to age 5, librarian Dawn LaBrosse says, “Playful learning is memorable learning.” There are playful ways to incorporate daily learning that prepare children for school and increase their literacy skills.
Five activities have been shown to have a big impact on young children. They are: reading, writing, talking, singing and playing together every day. When parents and caregivers take the time to do these with young children daily, they are giving them a jumpstart on early literacy and teaching them the skills they need to know.
Reading with young children is something we often emphasize at Read With You. There are so many benefits to reading with young children! There are some skills that we don’t often think about that children are learning when we read with them at a young age. They begin to understand that we read from left to right, front to back. They understand how to hold a book. They realize that the words on the page are the words we are reading. With repetition, kids will start to recognize familiar words.
Beyond the mechanics of reading, reading with our children shows them that we value reading and that it is enjoyable. When children have pleasant memories associated with reading at a young age, they will return to reading as they get older.
There are many fun ways to practice writing with preschool age children. Letting them trace letters, dictate stories, or write with sidewalk chalk may be easy ways to make writing fun.
From birth to about age 3,there may not be as many opportunities for them to write. At this age, however, we can model writing for them. Simple things like writing a shopping list or a letter show that writing is important. When we do these things on our phone or other devices, children may not see the need to write.
There are many benefits to singing with children. Singing teaches rhythm and rhyme. These both help children when they work to decode books later on. Singing is fun for children and engages them, so many things can be taught through song. For example, as a preschool teacher, I used songs to teach days of the week, months of the year, and other concepts we were working on.
Songs can also incorporate finger play. Songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Patty Cake” teach hand motions, which reinforces rhythm. Additionally, children learn fine motor skills that will help them later when they hold and manipulate a pencil or other writing instruments.
Talking to your child can be easy to overlook. They can’t answer and it can seem a little silly. But children gain so much from talking. Dawn LaBrosse referenced a study where it showed that children who have impoverished backgrounds have a 30 million word gap between them and their peers. They actually hear 30 million words less before they start school. This has repercussions throughout their school years and beyond. When we talk to children, we expose them to new vocabulary. In addition to the words used, they begin to understand conversation dynamics, such as when to listen and when to speak. Talking to children builds strong relationships as well, and shows the child you value them.
Taking time to play with your child builds the relationship and provides many learning opportunities as well. When you are playing, you are talking. Children are learning new words from these interactions. They are making new connections about how things work.
When parents and caregivers take the time to read, write, talk, sing and play with young children, the children will thrive. They will be better prepared for school and learning activities.