Bennett Day School News

Literacy in Early Childhood

Literacy means more than just learning to read. It encompasses reading of course, but writing and speaking are equally important components.

We all know that the wonderful sounds babies make are early attempts to communicate with us. We nurture those sounds as children grow so that they develop a vocabulary and eventually meaningful conversation. Few parents realize they have a similar opportunity to nurture reading and writing from an early age.

Early scribbles on paper are the beginnings of reading and writing. Parents may wonder how this is so, since children’s scratchings often appear to be little more than just that, but in truth, your child has made their meaning.

Those marks may be a make-believe shopping list, or a map or a letter to a parent or family member. Each mark bears the beginning of understanding. By scribbling, a child starts to learn the process of writing and with that the process of reading.
Speaking, writing, and reading are as much a part of a child’s natural development as rolling over and walking. Children are natural learners and they want to master these skills and they will--when they are ready to do so. Of course, we parents and teachers can watch for signs in order to help along the way.

As the new school year gets under way, children and their parents surely have reading on their minds as the major goal.When will my child learn to read? parents want to know. Will I learn to read on my very first day of school? many children wonder.

After 49 years as an educator, I have found that all children learn to read eventually, except in those rare cases where illness or injury interferes. Why do I say eventually? Because just as walking and talking have no precise time assigned, so reading comes in time as a piece of children’s development.

There are healthy ways to approach reading readiness with children. Here are some guidelines that will help:

  • Regardless of your child’s chronological age, read to her every day; that means from infancy. Children love the sound of their parents’ voices and will often mimic those sounds as precursors to speech. At the same time, they’re learning the cadence of the written word as it is read to them.
  • As children grow and develop interests, choose the books they want to hear or look at. A beautiful picture book can be as good a springboard for discussion as a book with many words.
  • A good first step is to choose to read a book with few words, then gradually add more complex text.
  • Remember that sitting with your child and a book, perhaps at the end of the day, often acts as a stimulus for your child to tell you about his day. Take this opportunity to learn what is on her mind and what good things happened today.
  • Do not stop reading to your child just because she has learned to read. We know that some children hold back showing they can read because they are afraid their parent will stop reading to them!
  • Make reading a part of your family’s life. Read a book that everyone in the household will enjoy, regardless of the level or age of the children. Allow each child to take a turn choosing a family book to read together.

Reading with your child represents a special time in the day. Nurture and take advantage of it as a way to know and become closer to your child.