This is a guest post written by Michelle MacRoy-Higgins, Ph.D., and Carlyn Kolker
So when you are cradling your baby in your arms, whether you’re telling him a story about space exploration, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” or reading the book Goodnight Moon, you really are prepping him to read and write on his own in the years to come.
A child soaks in every word you say, even before she can utter the words herself. Once she learns to talk, she’s stepping into the passageway that one day will lead her to read and write on her own. That’s because oral language development — talking — is the foundation of literacy.
When your child learns to talk, the elements of oral communication that he’s beginning to grasp are ones that provide the foundation for reading and writing, such as vocabulary, grammar and how to convey a story through narrative elements like characters and climax. Granted, all these things take time — years! — but they can be practiced at home by simply incorporating songs, stories, rhymes, letter identification and more into your daily parenting routine.
Start, of course, with talking, reading and singing to your child all the time. Encourage your child to talk and tell stories. Beginning at around age 3 or 4, your child may begin to develop some important pre-literacy skills that will help him learn to read in a few years. These include knowing how to hold a book, recognizing different letters and the sounds they make and learning to hold a pencil and scribble or make stick figures. Unlike other aspects of childhood development, kids don’t always pick up these concepts on their own. They rely on parents, teachers, and caregivers to teach them how. It’s all right if your child’s preschool or daycare doesn’t emphasize teaching letters, but you may want to work on them at home.
Use these five helpful habits to instill a knack for reading long before your child dives into the Harry Potter books:
- Talk about words.Ask your child what words mean, and describe how some words (like “bat” or “bark”) have different meanings. Point to words with your finger when reading books to your child.
- Talk about letters.Start by showing your child the first letter of her name. Search for other words that start with that letter. Then, move on to the first letters in mom’s and dad’s names, siblings’ names and pets’ name.
- Rhyme all the time.Practice rhyming words early and often. Did you know that rhyming is an important pre-requisite skill to reading and writing? It helps your child learn how to break words into smaller sounds. Children as young as age 2 can begin to rhyme. Make this fun and silly.
- Find common words and point them out again and again.Teach a child to recognize words like “yes” and “no,” and then play games to find them — like on signs or in books. Our kids loved to find “on,” “off,” “stop” and “exit.”
- Seek help for any language delays.By the end of kindergarten, if your child is having difficulty rhyming, breaking words into syllables or learning his letters and letter sounds, ask your pediatrician or school nurse about having your child tested.
Dr. Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker are co-authors of the new book, Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development (Amacom 2017). Dr. MacRoy-Higgins is an associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Hunter College in New York City. She has a BS and MS in speech-language pathology and a PhD in speech-language-hearing sciences. She has her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), is licensed in New York State as a speech-language pathologist, and has worked as a classroom teacher. Dr. Michelle has evaluated and worked with hundreds of children ages 6 months to 10 years with their speech and language issues. Carlyn Kolker is a writer who is raising two boys. Learn more atwww.timetotalkbook.com.
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