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  • WeShouldRead

9 Tips for Building Early Literacy Skills

Each of us is born with an innate ability to speak but must be formally taught to read and write.  Wherever your child is in their literacy journey, these tips will help!


Repetition is key.  Children thrive on predictability.  If you have an infant, sing the same songs over and over.   If your child is learning sight words, show the same word written on an index card, made with magnets on the fridge, highlighted in text, and say it aloud frequently.  Reread the same books night after night.  You cannot be too repetitive!  Now is when you want to be a broken record.  While reading the same story or singing the same song might be boring to you, it helps children develop important language skills and feel safe in their learning.  It’s like visiting a best friend – you don’t want to see them once and never again!  Exposure is necessary.  You can’t expect a child who doesn’t regularly see books or you reading to want to read.  You can’t expect a child who isn’t around letters and numbers to differentiate between the two abstract sets of symbols.  You can’t expect a child who has never heard of rhyming words to suddenly generate a rhyming pair.  So, starting from day one, read to your child.  Show them letters, numbers, words, books.  Sing them songs and tell them stories.  Let them play with foam letters in the bath before they’re even aware that what they’re playing with are letters! Have fun.  Writing doesn’t always have to be paper/pencil, and reading doesn’t always need to be in books!  If your child is practicing handwriting or spelling, you can use shaving cream, window markers, play-doh, wikki stix, and more!  If your child is practicing reading words, you can write them with white crayon and have your child paint watercolors over the top to make the words magically appear.  You can put letters or words on index cards, scatter them on the floor, turn off the lights and shine a light on a single card at a time for your child to read. (Alternatively, you can say a letter or word aloud and have your child search for the written text!) Anything that makes the same (again, repetition!) thing seem new and exciting!  I always tell parents that in the car is one of the best times to practice skills.  If your child is struggling with rhyming, look out the window and share something you see.  “I see a hat! What rhymes with hat? Hat, cat. Hat, cat, mat. Hat, cat, mat, sat. Can you think of another rhyme?”  It doesn’t always need to be structured learning time to learn! Be forgiving.  Don’t get upset or frustrated if your child isn’t “getting it.”  Catch yourself if you do and call it a night.  End on a positive note, praising your child for their hard work.  Set a timer if you or your child have known frustration working on an academic task.  Then the end is in sight!  When writing, don’t ask your child to erase and redo something.  Just ask them to move on and correct it the next time.  No one wants to feel like they aren’t good at something. Boost confidence! Speaking of being good at something – tell your child that they are a reader! They are a writer! Even if children aren’t reading and writing in the conventional sense yet, they are reading signs, expressions, & pictures and gathering meaning.  They are drawing lines and squiggles and telling stories.  Acknowledge that work being done! Build language and vocabulary.  This seems basic, but a lot of people don’t elaborate when they’re talking to their children.  If your child says “butterfly” when they see one, you have the opportunity to elaborate and promote a connection: “Yes, look at that beautiful Monarch butterfly! Do you see the orange and black spots?  This is like the book we read, the Very Hungry Caterpillar! Do you remember that? The caterpillar that turned into a butterfly?”  The impact of reading to and talking with your child (at any age) cannot be underestimated.  Model your thinking. When you’re reading stories, ask your child questions about what’s happening in the story or if what’s happening in the story reminds them of anything that’s happened in their own life.  Point out concepts of print, like how you read from left to right and top to bottom. Discuss how you can tell what a character is feeling based on the illustrations.  Basically, don’t rush through your story time, as it’s rich with educational opportunity! Make reading GOOD BOOKS a top priority.  Read together. Every day. EVERY day.  When I put emphasis on “good books,” I mean books that you and your child love.  If you don’t love what you’re reading, how are you going to model a love of reading?  I encourage you to only own books that you enjoy! This way your child has freedom of choice to pick their own bedtime stories, but you know you won’t mind reading them again and again.  Read-alouds shouldn’t stop because your child is old enough to read independently.  Continue a family read-aloud with a chapter book! Let your child read aloud to you. Ask for help.  Seeing the real-world impact of reading and writing will propel your child’s desire to learn.  When you make a shopping list, let your child help.  Are they just learning pencil grasp? Let them draw pictures of what you need.  You can label their pictures so they see the writing and so you remember what the pictures are supposed to be.  Are they learning beginning sounds? Leave a blank for the first letter and let your child fill that part in.  Are they fully spelling? Great, they can write the whole thing!  The same thing goes for reading.  Hold a book upside down or backwards when you sit down to read so they’ll correct you.  Pretend once in a while that you don’t know what a word is or how to sound it out.  They’ll be eager to transform from the student to the teacher! -Samantha Richardson, Little Cub Literacy Early childhood literacy specialist, reading tutor, kindergarten teacher, two-time Teacher of the Year award winner, infant mom, Air Force wife & USAF Key Spouse Connect on the web! www.littlecubliteracy.com Instagram: @littlecubliteracy Twitter: @lilcubliteracy YouTube: Little Cub Literacy


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