View the video: Learn As They Grow: Early Literacy and Libraries
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From the moment children are born, and even before - their brains are like sponges soaking up every experience. They are ready to learn! All family members and caregivers have the power to shape the early literacy skills children need to read and write.
Five early literacy activities - talking, singing, reading, writing and playing – are easy and fun ways to prepare your children to become readers and successful learners! You may be doing many of these things already, but here’s more about these powerful activities.
Babies often understand words before they can say them. In the beginning, crying is your baby’s way of communicating. When we respond with gentle tones and words, children will begin to learn about having a conversation.
You can chat with your children while you make meals, shop for groceries, or get ready for school or work. What might seem ordinary to you is part of a whole new world for your children.
The more you speak with children and use new words, the more they will be able to understand and use language.
Talking also helps children better understand their world. When you respond to their questions or talk about emotions, you strengthen their confidence.
While it’s important to talk with your children, it’s just as important to listen. Be patient while you wait for them to respond. Young children need more time to figure out what to say and how to say it.
Tell them stories about you, your family, and the things that you have done together. Encourage your children to tell stories, too, and to ask questions along the way.
Unlike talking, singing slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words. Rhythm lets them hear words broken down into parts. This helps them “sound out” new words later when they learn to read.
Songs make your child feel calm and safe and are a natural way for children to build literacy skills and bond with their caregivers. Songs teach children new words and ideas, boost memory, and help them to develop listening skills. Plus, singing with your children can inspire a lifelong love of music.
You can sing with your children anywhere. Songs even help during frustrating times, like when you and your children are stuck in traffic.
Singing can be fun! Don’t worry if you don’t sound great. Your children don’t care. They just love listening to your voice. If you can’t remember all the words in a song, then clap, hum, or make up silly rhymes.
Shared reading – or reading books together – is the single best way to help children get ready to read. When you read with your children, they are more likely to enjoy reading themselves, which leads to success in learning and school. Reading together also strengthens the bond between you and your children.
If you can, read every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes, and talk about the books together. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other caring adults can all share reading with children.
If you’re not comfortable reading, tell your children stories or get wordless picture books and make up stories based on what you see. There is no right or wrong way to read with your children, as long as you both enjoy your time together.
Cuddling with your children while reading together helps them to experience reading as a fun activity that they can do with someone they love.
Books often use words not said in everyday conversations, so reading with children helps them learn new words.
Keep reading positive. The more fun children have with books, the more likely it is that they will become independent readers.
Focus on the quality of the reading time, not just the quantity of books you read. Also, don’t insist on reading when your children are tired or just not in the mood to listen. You can always try again later.
Read a variety of books about things your children like. Let them choose the books even if you have to read the same ones over and over. In fact, children learn from repetition. They need to hear the same words many times before they learn them.
Make shared reading interactive. Let your children turn the pages. Ask and answer questions as you read. Use different voices for the characters, and make gestures and silly sounds. Talk about the story or the pictures in the book during and after reading.
Books provide the opportunity for you to respond to your child’s curiosity and learn more about the world together. They can also help to start a conversation about difficult subjects or explain family issues in a sensitive way.
Make reading part of your daily routine.
Keep books everywhere! In the stroller, in your diaper bag, near the highchair and throughout your home.
You can read anything you see! Signs, labels, and the mail. It all helps children learn that print words have meaning, which will make them want to learn how to read.
You are the best reading role model for your children, so let them see you reading books, magazines and newspapers, even the computer. If they think reading is important to you, it will become important to them.
If you’re away from your children, read books to them using your phone or a computer. Reading and sharing stories can be a calm and reassuring way to spend time together when you’re apart.
Writing is another part of early literacy – a skill children need to practice before they start school.
Writing and reading go together. Both represent language. Writing helps children learn the names of letters and their sounds. It also helps children understand that written words have meanings that connect to real things in their world.
Have crayons, markers and paper available and encourage your children to draw, scribble and write. At first, they will only be able to make lines and simple shapes. But when children regularly do these activities, they develop fine motor skills and strengthen the muscles they need to make letters.
Together, you can write children’s names and the names of family and friends. Names are some of the first words children learn to recognize in print and to write themselves.
Explore the alphabet with your children. Get magnetic letters for the refrigerator, wooden blocks with letters or make your own letters for your children to play with.
Show your children how to write in sand or on fogged up windows – anywhere they can safely practice.
You can model writing for your children, too. Talk about grocery lists or birthday cards as you are writing them.
Talking, singing, reading, and writing can all be play.
Your children are curious about everything! When you play together, you are teaching them about the world and how things work, but most important, you are showing them that you love spending time together.
You don’t need expensive toys. Babies love to play with you. Even your face, hands and feet are fun to them. Toddlers just need simple things like boxes and wooden blocks - plus lots of encouragement! Playtime is also an opportunity to introduce written words in creative ways.
Play is fun, but it also helps children put their thoughts into words. It teaches them that by using their imagination, one thing represents another. A wooden block can be a truck. A book can be a hat. This type of thinking is used in reading, too.
Children learn language by interacting with others and with their physical surroundings.
Play also helps children to develop problem solving and social skills. It builds their self-confidence as they explore the world around them.
Pretend play promotes creativity and builds vocabulary. Think of all the new words you are sharing when you pretend that you are a farmer, a firefighter or a princess.
Caregivers are always busy, but playing together for even a few minutes at a time has a lasting impact.
You can use technology to build early literacy skills, too.
It’s important to use technology together and to talk about it while you do. Children might use a computer or other device by themselves, but just like books and toys, you can make the most of learning opportunities by doing it with them.
Interact with your children in the language you know best. Children will learn English in school, but they’ll be more ready to learn any language if a caregiver has been regularly talking, singing, reading, writing and playing with them. Using the language of your heart is a great way to celebrate your family’s cultural heritage.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles… all caregivers play a special role in children’s lives. Your community library and its staff can too, by providing programs and resources that help your family to talk, sing, read, write and play together.
Libraries are everywhere! In Hennepin county, there are 41 libraries throughout Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs. Chances are, one is close by and easy to get to by bus, car or walking.
All libraries are different, but each one has something for everyone, including storytimes and other programs for young children, comfortable spaces for families to play together, homework help for students of all ages, clubs for teens and adults, and of course, books!
Libraries also have access to resources, computers and the internet, and can share information about parenting, health concerns, education, legal issues and other family matters.
Another great thing about public libraries is that they can help you save money because you don’t have to buy the books, magazines, music and movies that you enjoy.
To access library resources, you need a library card. Getting one is easy and free. Apply for a card at a library or online. Your children can get their own library cards, too.
Whenever you visit the library, bring your library card with you. You’ll need it to check out and renew materials, use library computers, and access online resources. You can also renew materials at the library, on the library’s website, or on the phone as long as no one else is waiting for them.
For more information, please visit our website at www.hclib.org, or stop by in person.
Library staff will be happy to answer your questions, connect you to resources, suggest something new to read, and support you and your family.
From the time children are born and throughout their lives, the library can help you and them learn as they grow.