Building a Foundation for Your Child’s Literacy Development

Learning to read and write are skills that are essential to a child’s success in school and later life.  As a parent, you play a vital role in providing guidance, instruction, and opportunities for learning that will help him or her develop the skills needed to be successful both academically and socially.  Dr. Stephen Green, Associate Professor and Extension Child Development Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System states that for decades, many researchers, educators, and parents operated under the assumption that learning to read and write were processes that began with formal school-based instruction in kindergarten or first grade; however, we now understand that the preschool years serve as a foundation for developing these essential literacy skills.

As children become more familiar with letter names, shapes, and sounds, they develop the ability to take spoken words apart sound by sound (segmentation) and put together sounds to make words (blending).  Before children begin the formal process of writing, they experiment with activities such as scribbling, producing letter-like forms, and using invented spelling to attempt to write words.

Many experts believe that the single most important teaching strategy for promoting children’s early literacy development is reading aloud to them in an interactive style that engages them as active learners.  consider the following suggestions:

• Set aside a special time each day to read to your child. Children who are read to frequently tend to become superior readers and do better in school.  If you set aside a special time each day to read, your child will come to expect it and look forward to it with eager expectations.

• Make reading time a fun experience for your child.  Show enthusiasm when you read.  Change your voice to match the characters in the story.  Help your child learn as you read.  Ask questions about the book as you read.  Point out words, letters, numbers, colors, and shapes.

• Have your child help you select books.  Children will be more interested in the process if they have a say in what books are read; however, select books that are age-appropriate.

• Read and re-read a variety of books.  Read storybooks, informational books, alphabet & number books, and nursery rhymes.  (I remember a book that my mom read to me as a child, and I even had it memorized it at one time!  The book is titled “Cowboy Dan”.  It’s a great book – check it out!)

• Teach your child that printed letters and words run from left to right across the page & from top to bottom in the English language.  As you’re reading to your child, place your finger under the beginning word in a sentence and follow along as you read.

As you work with your child, help him or her to:

• Learn to say the alphabet.

• Recognize and name letters.

• Distinguish between capital and lowercase letters.

• Understand the sounds that letters make.

• Recognize beginning letters in familiar words, such as their name.

Visit the library regularly.  Books and other print materials can be very expensive; therefore, public libraries are a great option for gaining access to high quality children’s literature.  Take special trips to the library and allow your child to explore.  Obtain a library card for your child so that he or she can check out books.  Hope Cain, Director of the Sulphur Springs library, can give you information about special story times events for children, as well.

Collect a variety of books to use in your home.  Having paper and crayons also encourages children to experiment with words and pictures, which contributes to a child’s early literacy development.  By making a conscious effort to talk to, sing to, and play with your child, you facilitate your child’s oral language abilities and lay an important foundation for later literacy learning.

Closing Thought

Remember that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.  Are you making a conscious effort to love, nurture, and teach them?

Johanna Hicks
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Family & Consumer Sciences
1200-B W. Houston
P.O.Box 518
Sulphur springs, TX 75483
903-885-3443 – phone

903-439-4909 – Fax

[email protected]

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