Defined, literacy is the ability to read and write. When people first think about literacy they generally think about the ability to read. Reading books, reading signs, reading a menu at a restaurant… But the truth is, literacy is so much more! Especially during the preschool years!
Yes, reading is important. Reading books can serve as an entertainment for children, can expose them to new ideas, help them calm down for bedtime, or aid in sharing information. Reading quality children’s books can also support preschooler’s development in understanding themselves and others. Some books support this emotional development by increasing the positive self-concept of children. They also help to increase respect for and appreciation of human diversity. Books such as On Mother’s Lap by Ann Herbert Scott and Someone Special, Just Like You by Tricia Brown support this development as well as helping children to be aware of the different ways that people live while also supporting the development of empathy and positive values. Books such as Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie can help children cope with problems and learn how to respond to difficulty appropriately. Not only are they fun, but books double as learning opportunities!
While your child is being read to at school, it is important. I mean very, very, very important that reading is also taking place at home. Not only is the time spent sitting with your child reading fun, reading with them supports many parts of literacy development. Read to your child everyday! Twice a day…six times a day…ten times as day! As often as they want, but at least once. You can visit a public library to borrow books, find them for little cost at places such as The Salvation Army, or even print them out from websites that offer free printable books. Don’t be afraid to read your child’s favorite book more than once. Reading books over and over is great for emergent reading: children learn to participate more in book conversations and discussions, they may be able to act out the story after repeated readings or even read the book independently!
So yes, please go ahead and read to your children!
But like I said before…literacy is so much more!
Literacy is play. And the goal of play is to have fun and communicate ideas. In the experience of play, literacy is seen as the acquisition of communication skills: speaking, listening, writing, reading, and representing. Oral language – listening and talking- is the foundation of reading and writing. Plat is the best way to enhance and develop literacy skills when teachers and parents interact with and support their children’s play experiences. Encourage your children to ask questions – ask them questions and encourage them to answer. For example, if your child comes running up to you and says, “Mom, I found my dinosaur!” Instead of replying with “That’s great honey…” engage your child and support their literacy development by asking them “Wonderful! Where did you find it? How do you think it got there?” Be sure to use appropriate communication skills by giving them time to respond and maintaining eye contact while conversing with them. These little things will go a long way in your child’s ability to develop literacy skills.
Literacy is also written language. And while in preschool we don’t expect children to be able to write words or sentences we can encourage skills that will support their ability to do this in Kindergarten. There are two parts to writing – the physical ability to hold a writing instrument and make meaningful marks, and thinking of ideas and expressing them on paper. At this age, expression doesn’t need to be writing…it can be a drawing or painting…even angry scribbles represent emotional expression. In preschool the focus for written language is developing the muscles needed to support writing. Some activities that can help your child to strengthen and develop his or her motor abilities are: play on monkey bars, crawl around, play with scarves, swing a jump rope, play catch, paint on a vertical surface such as an easel, use scissors and hole punchers, play with legos, use eye droppers, and play with playdough.
Not only is literacy written language, spoken language, and reading books…it is phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge. Support your child’s development of phonological awareness by making up rhymes with your child, reading rhyming stories, describing things you see, rhyming with names, and singing songs. Support their development of alphabet knowledge by playing ‘I Spy’, looking through a book and searching for the letters in your child’s name, helping your child write a note to a friend, and pointing out letters on signs, flyers, books…any letter anywhere!
If parents and teacher work together, we can support children as they develop literacy skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Even the simplest activity can help support literacy development. So, go ahead and read to your child…talk to them, rhyme with them, write with them…and just wait and see “all the places they’ll go”!
For additional information, check out these websites:
A free printable book : http://firstgradealacarte.blogspot.com/2011/10/orange-pumpkin-orange-pumpkin.html
Fun ideas for motor development: http://www.scribbledoodleanddraw.blogspot.ca/2012/12/squeezing-in-some-fun.html
Literacy activities: http://30days.familieslearning.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/NCFL30Days.pdf
A fun matching game: http://b-inspiredmama.com/2013/08/upper-and-lower-case-letter-match-printable/
Literacy information: http://www.earlyliteracylearning.org/pgparents.php