Parents vital to early literacy skills

February 18, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

It’s “I Love to Read” month.

As an adult, it is a treat to sit down with a good book and travel to a different land, time and experience.

We all want our children to read and read well. We want them to grow up with a love of reading.

There are things we can do with our children early on before they even start formal schooling to help them develop early literacy skills.

According to research, there are six pre-reading skills that children must learn in order to read.

Research also shows that children prepare for reading years before they start school, and of course, we, as parents are very important in helping them develop these “getting ready to read” skills.

“Every Child Ready to Read @ your library” tells us that these six pre-reading skills are: narrative skills, print motivation, vocabulary, phonological awareness, letter knowledge and print awareness.

“Every Child Ready to Read @ your library” is a project of the Public Library Association and the Association for Library Service to Children, divisions of the American Library Association. Www.pla.org, www.ala.org/alsc.

What exactly does each of these skills mean and entail? The “Every Child Ready to Read” project offers this information and tips:

• Vocabulary is knowing the names of things. We can help our children develop their vocabulary by talking to them a lot and by reading with them every day.

• Having an interest in books is print motivation. We should make reading time an enjoyable time of sharing together. It is also good for our children to see us reading.

• Print awareness is noticing print and knowing how to turn the pages in a book – how to handle a book. We read from left to right and top to bottom. We should read aloud to our children every day – books, signs, recipes, menus, lists, etc. We should allow our children to handle books, look at books and “tell” us the story.

• My three-year old daughter loves to “read” stories to herself. I will often find her sitting somewhere with a book in her hand creating her own reading adventure by looking at the pages or by remembering what was read to her about the story.

• Narrative skills involve the ability to tell stories and to describe events and things. We can talk with our children about things we are doing and encourage our children to tell us things. Ask questions and listen with patience.

• Being able to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words is phonological awareness. Singing songs, saying rhymes and playing rhyming games with our children are ways we can help our children develop this skill.

• Letter knowledge is what it says. It is knowing that the letters are different from each other and have different names and sounds. Letters are shapes and we can help our children see different shapes.

• Reading alphabet books, pointing out and naming letters, singing the alphabet song, playing with magnetic letters, making letters and shapes with dough are all ways we can help our children develop letter knowledge. (Knowing shapes and forming shapes are precursors to printing the letters).

Make a bookmark

Of course, spending time reading together is one of the best gifts we can give our children. How about making some fun bookmarks together?

The web site familycrafts.about.com offers the idea of creating “birds of a feather” bookmark. Using a tongue depressor (wider craft stick), paints or markers, glue, felt, wiggle eyes and a feather, you can create this one-of-a-kind bookmark.

Paint the stick whatever color you choose. Cut a small triangle out of felt and glue it on the craft stick where you would like the beak to be. Glue the wiggle eyes on the front and the feather on the back, and allow to dry before using.

You could also create other animal bookmarks using the craft sticks, felt, paint, markers, wiggle eyes and a little imagination. Make a mouse and add a yarn tail on the back and some yarn whiskers and felt ears on the front, etc.

Go on a reading adventure – Have fun reading.