What Does “Early Literacy” Mean?
Early literacy does not mean early reading instruction or that your child should be reading as a baby, but it does refer to what children know about reading and writing before they actually do either one. For instance, learning their ABC’s is only one of the pre-reading skills that children need to help them learn to read and write.
How Can You Support Early Literacy with Your Children at Home?
There are six early literacy skills that help children become ready to learn how to read, and they are best taught through talking, reading, singing, writing and playing with your child beginning at birth. The six skills are:
Print Awareness: learning to use and love books. You can help with this by reading to your child from birth; letting your baby play with books (even if it means that some pages might get torn or chewed on); reciting nursery rhymes.
Vocabulary: learning new words and understanding their meaning. You can help with this by speaking the language you know best to your child; pointing out words and their meaning as you explore the world around your child; pointing to words on the page as you read.
Narrative Skills: being able to understand and tell stories and describe events. You can help with this by talking to your child as you go about your day and letting him know what you are doing; asking him questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer; encouraging him to repeat words; playing imaginative games and making up stories.
Phonological Awareness: being able to hear sounds in words. You can help with this by reading animal sound books as well as rhyming and song books; listening to music during transition times and in the car; playing rhyming games.
Letter Knowledge: recognizing that the letters are different from each other and have different names and sounds. You can help with this by helping your child learn her shapes as it will be crucial for learning her letters; reading and rereading colorful board books; making letters using play-dough, chalk, paint and even sticks while outside.
Print Awareness: understanding that print is everywhere and has meaning. You can help with this by encouraging your baby to play with books and turn pages; reading books that have a few simple words in large, clear fonts; making books together from a story your child has made up.
Check out these resources to learn more about early literacy development and to find more ideas on how you can support each pre-reading skill as your child ages:
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- NAEYC Everyday Steps to Reading and Writing
- Scholastic Parent Resources: Language and Literacy Development for 3 - 5 Year Olds
- Reading Rockets Family Literacy Tips
- Edutopia: Parent Involvement in Early Literacy