The push to get young ones reading and writing is present from infancy to elementary school. But how can you tell if your child is truly ready for reading? What kinds of activities are best for encouraging literacy development? How can parents and caregivers cultivate strong language skills that fit with the developmental stages of young childhood?
This week, the Access Learning Blog takes a look at early reading development, providing strategies and resources for helping parents and caregivers identify what emerging literacy skills look like and how best to support them.
At Access Learning, one of our key philosophies is to focus on the well-being of the entire child. This means that our tutoring takes into account the social, emotional, and physical needs and abilities of every individual student. Parents and caregivers should aim to take a similar approach with the children in their care. As Howard Gardner and many others have proven, we all learn in different ways and at different speeds; the education we receive should reflect this understanding (click here for more information on Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences).
When talking about emergent literacy, we’re referring to the development of reading, writing, and language comprehension, which includes listening and speaking. If you have a little one (or little ones) at home or in your care, you may wonder how to tell whether they are ready for reading or not.
But what does that look like?
Scholastic books has a great article outlining qualities your child may demonstrate that indicate reading readiness. Things like, do they hold books in the right direction (or adjust the book so that it is facing the right way)? Can they turn book pages and do they follow along from left to right? Do they enjoy “reading” (pretending to read) books and copy what they see you doing as you read to them (for example, using their finger to follow-along with the text, or turning their head from left to right as they move through each page)? Are they interested in re-telling favourite stories? Do they act them out? Do you have to read the same books over and over and over again because your child loves them so much?
Truly, the best way to encourage these kinds of skills and this level of interest is simply to read to your child. From infancy onward, engaging your children in reading is the number one way to build reading ability.
However, we tend to think of reading as something you do with a book. And absolutely, reading storybooks is a fun and engaging way of supporting literacy skill development, bonding with your child, and sharing morals and values. But reading goes far beyond the pages of books! There are many opportunities to read outside of those printed pages. Here are some fun ideas for how you can read with your child outside of using a storybook:
- Read street signs and storefront signage to your child as you walk or drive through your neighbourhood. Point out words and letters as you go.
- Play board games with your children that include words and phrases on the game board, playing cards, or game pieces. Take the time to point out what you are reading.
- Use reading apps on a tablet, phone, or computer. (However, it’s not ideal for any child, especially very young children, to have too much screen time. Talk to your family doctor or spend some time researching to better understand the implications of screen time on your child’s behaviour and development (for example: here, here, or here).
- Cook with you child and have them look at and follow along with a recipe.
- Purchase or make toys that incorporate words and letters. Building blocks and magnetic letters are great examples. Pinterest has an endless amount of ideas for how to incorporate more language into your child’s play.
- Offer your child alternative reading resources like magazines, comics, non-fiction texts, or newspapers.
- Go to a museum, art gallery, or science centre and read what you see on the walls, displays, and signage.
So is your child ready for reading? Are they pulling at your leg, asking you to read “Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?” for the thousandth time? If they are not yet showing interest, keep an eye on the types of play your child enjoys and monitor the amount of words, sounds, and phrases your child has. If you are concerned, be sure to reach out to your family doctor or other care provider, but remember that every child develops at their own speed, in their own way, and that “milestones” are simply guidelines that help us better understand how and when most people achieve certain levels of ability.
For tips on how to make reading more fun, check out our “Make Reading Fun!” info-graphic.
Join our blog next time for Part 2 of this series: Ready for Writing!