Early literacy does not refer to young children who are able to read. Early literacy refers to the skills required to read something and then understand complex issues, abstract ideas, and new information. A child’s language and speech skills grow the most in the first three years of life. Beyond the obvious of reading, consider these ideas to promote early literacy in young children:
Introduce the idea of main characters, themes, plots, settings, suspense, comedy, resolutions, and more. When you are recounting memories, set them up as a story. As you explain why it’s good to eat vegetables, make up a story to bring the lesson to life. Use silly voices, facial expressions, and big hand gestures.
Children learn and memorize words especially when they’re set to a tune. Incorporate everything from common nursery rhymes to songs in different languages to made up gibberish in a silly ditty. Singing the “clean up” song can take a chore and turn it into a fun activity. Singing a nighttime lullaby every night can prime a child’s body and mind for sleep. Even before they can speak the words, they take in the lyrics and the meaning.
If you’ve moved your to-do lists and notes to a paperless system on your phone or tablet, consider breaking out the old pen and paper again. Children need to see handwriting and watch you write. If they are old enough, they can copy letters and practice writing their name. But long before that, scribbling with a crayon and imitating their mom’s grocery list is a great introduction to writing. The curves and curls of a child’s mimicked cursive reinforces fine motor skills and fires up important brain activity.
For many new parents, something as obvious as talking to their child does not come easily. Babies and young children soak up their interactions like a sponge. Making eye contact, touching their hands or face, and speaking loving words to them creates connection and a foundation for a lifelong relationship. As babies grow, explain everything to them. Narrate your life. Forecast what the day will look like. And as they start to learn words, repeat after them, exaggerate sounds so they can copy them, and help them name objects and verbs.
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