Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Building Early Literacy Skills

Whether you know it or not, when your child arrives at the beginning of the year for kindergarten, your child's teacher will assess your child to see what early literacy skills (s)he already has.  This ranges from everything from the obvious, like does your child know his/her upper and lower case letters, to skills that probably only a teacher thinks about like the return sweep.  One of the best, and easiest ways to begin to develop these early literacy skills in your child is by simply reading aloud to him/her.  You don't need to be an education expert, or even a super reader for your child to reap the benefits of being read to. 

There are many early literacy skills that children pick up just by being read aloud.  (Just one of the many benefits of reading aloud to your children!)  Three examples of these skills are knowing where to find the title of a story, where to find the author, and knowing how to hold a book (and which way to turn the pages..I guess that actually makes four skills, not three).  While these may hardly seem like "skills" to most of us, the fact is that they are skills.  No person was born knowing how to hold a book and which way to turn the pages.  This is where a habit of reading aloud can help build up your child's early literacy skills.  My husband and I have developed the habit of starting each read aloud by saying "The title of the book is..." while pointing to the title and then saying, "The author of the book is..." while pointing to the author's name.  Now, our son is not even six months old yet, so I know this seems extra odd when you figure that in, but one day it will dawn on him when he wants to request a certain book to say the title of the book and he will know where to look for that information.  He will likely never have a formal lesson from us about where to find the title and author of a book on the cover, in the same way that he will probably never sit through instruction about how to hold a book and which way the pages should be turned.  But a lifetime of watching his parents point out the title and author, hold a book a particular way, and always turn the pages the same way will eventually sink in and he'll head off to kindergarten armed with some basic literacy skills that other less fortunate kids won't have.  Reading aloud to your children is so much more than a great way to spend time with your children, it's also an amazing way to teach them some of their first reading lessons.  For all of the money that parents are willing to dump into expensive tutoring sessions, and fancy computer programs promising to teach your preschooler to read, really the best place for your child to learn the basics of reading is in their parent's lap.

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