Home / Early Literacy

Early Literacy - Getting Children Reading

Reading is a skill that holds profound importance in the lives of children. Learning to read well is vital for children's success in school. A child who has poor reading comprehension will have great difficulty in achieving school success, especially in today's educational environment which emphasizes standardized testing and specific benchmarks that have to be reached in order for children to be promoted to the next grade. The foundations of literacy are laid down very early for children; these foundations do not just begin when a child begins formal schooling. Early literacy starts with parents and other caregivers that begin preparing a child to read from the day that child is born.

Getting children reading begins before formal education begins. When parents and caregivers talk to a child, they are beginning that child on the road to reading. Many parents do not talk to their infants as they do not realize the importance of talking to babies. Many parents assume that talking to an infant does not matter, because the infant cannot understand them. However, having a parent talk directly to an infant allows the infant's brain to incorporate those vocal sounds and expands the baby's knowledge and skills related to reading comprehension from birth.
In order to promote early literacy, parents and other caregivers need to talk to infants and toddlers frequently. Parents can begin pointing out and naming objects even to the youngest of infants, which engages young children in learning language. Singing to babies and toddlers will also help young children learn to recognize and use sounds that will help them to learn as they grow. It is important that parents do not put a child in front of a television set and assume that this will substitute for a parent's voice. However, the eye contact and face to face relationship with a young child cannot be provided by a television.

As children get a little older, and are able to hold small objects, books can be used as a way to promote early literacy. Most young children love to have an adult sit with them and point out objects in books. As children get a little older, typically 2 to 3 years of age, they love to have adults read stories to them. This process of reading with a child will help him or her with reading comprehension later. Children observe how a parent or caregiver connects letters on a page to a vocal sound, which helps to teach this skill to a child that they will use when they begin to read. Parents and other caregivers can also teach a child to recognize colors, shapes, naming alphabet letters and numbers, and naming pictures in a book, such as animals or everyday objects. All of these skills are predictors of children who are successful in developing reading comprehension and it stands to reason that increasing a child's skills in these areas will help promote early literacy.

Additionally, having good short term memory is also positively associated with early literacy. Any activity that helps in the development of a child's memory will also help them with all forms of learning, and especially with reading. Parents can play creative games with their child, such as helping them remember nursery rhymes and songs, and asking a child to repeat back a list of words, such as colors or numbers. The ability to tell a story is also associated with reading comprehension and early literacy. Parents can urge children to tell stories about a trip to the store, or going on vacation and ask questions such as, "what happened after that?"

All of these above suggestions will help to get children reading more proficiently and doing so at an earlier age. Children will learn to love reading if they are given a good foundation to help them develop important early literacy skills and solid reading comprehension.