From our educational contributor: Modern Boca Teaching Mom
OK Modern Boca Moms, we all know that reading is one of the most important skills our children will learn in their early years. However, reading is not a set of isolated skills that children learn when they go to school.
Learning to read is a fluid process that begins at birth. It starts with early literacy, which is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Each new activity and experience encourages connections that children will potentially use throughout their lifetime.
So, how do we introduce early literacy in a natural and fun way?
Here’s Modern Boca Teaching Mom’s Top 10 list of developmentally appropriate activities that promote language and literacy for babies and toddlers:
- Talk. Talking to babies is imperative to language development. Describe the world around them. Use your senses. Talk about feelings and emotions, too.
- Music. Play and sing all types of music in your home. Music helps children develop rhythm and patterns, as well as phonological awareness. Try attending a local (wink wink, Musikgarten by the Beach) music class with your little one. You can also find books that combine reading and music, such as The Wheels on the Bus and If You’re Happy and You Know It.
- Read. No explanation needed here, right? Actually, there’s a little more to it than you think- you do not have to read Good Night Moon hundreds of times a day! You can read what you enjoy too! The truth is, that when your child visually sees you reading a book, magazine or even instructions, it is a positive interaction with reading. (Monkey see, monkey do…)
- Recite nursery rhymes. Even though many of them may not seem relevant to life today, children naturally respond to rhythm, rhymes and patterns in language.
- Participate in call and response activities. Huh? Basically, you want to model appropriate conversational skills. So when your little one babbles, coos or speaks, try to wait before you respond back- this shows that communicating with others involves speaking, listening and taking turns.
- Visit the library. Libraries are a huge part of our community. Our Boca libraries are not only beautiful to look at, but they also provide opportunities for your little one to meet the librarian, select their own books, use a library card, etc. In addition to checking out books, many libraries offer lots of free programs and activities for infants and toddlers.
- Act out finger-plays. You can find so many finger-play resources on the web; in different languages too! Adding physical actions to these cute little songs works on gross and fine-motor skills and coordination. (Again…music and reading go hand and hand.)
- Tell stories without a book. Storytelling is an ancient art and the good thing about made-up stories is that you can make them up as you go along. Babies usually find your voice of a caregiver calming and soothing. Older infants and toddlers will be able to recognize some of the words in your story and develop their own images in their mind!
- Read wordless books or create your own using small photo albums and talk about the pictures. This is great for building vocabulary! It shows your child that we can tell lots of stories by describing pictures and looking at details.
- Take your little one everywhere! Do you have any books about farm animals? Turn that book into real life and bring your kiddo to the petting zoo. Does your child love books about transportation? If so, take a ride on the Tri-Rail. By providing your child all sorts of meaningful experiences, they will in turn be able to connect those experiences while reading. (Again, another opportunity to create you own experiential book like we did at Butterfly World!)
There are so many ways to encourage early literacy in your home and there’s just not enough time in the day to do them all.
Just remember, your overall goal is for your child to develop a life-long love of learning. Every little thing you do or place you go, will only benefit your child…and don’t forget there’s nothing better than cuddling up with a good book and bonding with your little one!
When I look back at tip #3, it makes me wonder what books are other parents reading countless times a day? Leave your comments below!
About the writer: Kristine Keshishian, M. Ed. founder of Embracing Education, truly believes that education begins at birth and parents are a child’s teacher for life. No matter what educational philosophy one identifies with, we can all “embrace our children’s education” from early on to grow life-long learners!