Encouraging Early Literacy Skills
We all know that the early years are some of the busiest years of a child’s development. By age three, 85% of the brain is developed. Children develop abilities including motor and communications skills and, of course, begin to develop the foundations to support lifelong literacy skills. Encouraging early literacy skills is an impactful way to support positive literacy outcomes.
Early literacy skills are described as: “what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write.” This includes a child’s ability to recognize the need for written words in everyday life – at the grocery store, and even on a phone or tablet. It also includes their rudimentary understanding of phonetics, letters, and word patterns. During this time, children form crucial pattern-recognition skills as they begin to understand the basis of literacy and language.
Here are some ways to support your child’s literary development, and help develop pattern recognition skills that will make any future spelling bees a breeze:
1. Talk to Babies and Young Children
Studies have shown that even though they can’t talk back (yet), speaking to babies and young children plays an important role in their language development. Notably, the “baby voice” we all seem to revert to in the presence of tiny humans actually has a purpose – it catches their attention and allows them to understand us as we pronounce things slowly and exaggeratedly. That being said, it’s important to make sure that your baby talk has some substance to it, as the more children hear big and complex words, the better they will get at recognizing them or using pattern recognition to guess what it means.
Don’t play down your vocabulary when speaking to or around your child, and encourage them to ask questions about or get you to repeat certain words. Simply put, children who are not exposed to certain words won’t get a chance to learn them.
2. Model Good Reading Habits
Children who grow up in a house that watches sports every Saturday usually continue to watch sports as an adult. Likewise, children who grow up around parents who utilize reading as a leisure activity grow up to read for fun. Even embracing non-traditional reading materials is a great opportunity to model good reading habits. Reading news or an article on a tablet or picking up a magazine still constitutes reading. Encourage your child to join you with their own reading material, or embrace their interest in what you’re reading.
3. Read To, and With, Your Child
Reading to your child is understandably one of the most important ways to support your child’s literacy skills. In fact, one pediatric study found that the more a child was exposed to reading, the more support the region of the brain that supports language processing received. Reading daily during the early years is also important to establish lifelong reading habits.
Settling in with a book for just 20 minutes at the same time each day will establish reading as an enjoyable activity while developing a healthy, and relaxing, routine. Additionally, reading to your child exposes them to vocabulary that may not be used much day-to-day and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate their pronunciation while broadening their known vocabulary.
4. Sing Repetitive Songs
Rhythm, rhyme, and repetition are powerful tools to introduce children to certain words and phrases – there’s a reason almost all nursery rhymes contain repetitive phrases and tunes, like “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Repeating certain words while singing gives children practice making specific sounds while repeatedly hearing an example. Singing and music are incredibly engaging for children, and can even help introduce them to sequencing (first, next), learn how to rhyme, and develop auditory memory.
5. Encourage Activities That Require Reading
Realistically, children nowadays are going to spend just as much time on digital devices as they do reading – if not significantly more. Therefore, embracing and utilizing digital devices can be incredibly effective in encouraging children to engage in activities that require reading. In fact, one study found that when used properly, e-books worked just as well, if not better than printed books to teach children literacy skills. Children may also be more willing to engage with digital devices if they see adults around them using them frequently. Utilize games made for children that are centred around some form of reading, or try a children’s reading app like Reading Raven. We already utilize technology as a teaching tool at Little Angels, working off of our motto of “supplement, not rely.”
Promoting children’s literary development during these crucial early years can predict a child’s future reading and writing success. At Little Angels, our play-based learning programs allow children to explore key concepts around literacy in a fun and nurturing environment. Our approach provides a more intimate setting, creating a dynamic where children feel comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, and forming positive relationships.
Contact us today to see how our academic daycare programs foster children’s literary, social, and emotional development.