As our little ones come into the world, we watch them develop so many new skills in their first year of life. They smile, they pull up, they crawl, they speak. Did you know that many of these skills correlate to reading readiness a few years later.
Early literacy development is a process that begins in the first years of life. How do you engage an infant in activities that encourage early literacy? Best practices include many techniques which combine developmental milestones with “preparing” our youngest learners to become future readers. Simply engaging in everyday conversations, telling stories, and singing songs promote language. Even games like “peek-a-boo” are all ways to incorporate early literacy into daily routines. Singing repetitive songs while changing diapers, buckling seat belts and preparing dinner are easy ways to incorporate language and early learning with a simple daily routine.
At ages eight to sixteen months, older infants love to sing and dance. How does this help with early literacy? Singing and dancing are just a few of the activities that help our young learners develop a necessary phonological awareness which helps ready them for reading. There are many research based ideas which link music with early literacy development. For example, while singing or listening to music, children need to retain patterns and rhythms in their memory, which is also an integral reading readiness skill.
As our children grow and become toddlers at sixteen to twenty- four months of age, this early literacy development continues in various ways. As our infants become toddlers and begin to develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, they love to use instruments during musical play. As children clap, drum or shake to the beat, they learn to listen to, recognize, and attempt to imitate these same rhythms and patterns that are in their memory. Once again, this helps children develop phonological awareness, making meaning from sounds. Toddlers are well known for their desire for independence and personal preferences as they develop a sense of self. They have their favorite books and often ask for those to be read over and over. The importance of this repetition cannot be understated, as both babies and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency. Keep those favorites by their beds, in your diaper bag or in the car. It’s an easy way to incorporate books into their day and a healthy distraction when babies get fussy.
Have you ever seen a toddler “hiding” in a box? Surprisingly, even this favorite activity of most toddlers has a connection to early literacy. Empty boxes encourage creativity and develop higher level thinking skills. While building with these boxes the children are learning about spatial relationships and problem solving, which are directly related to reading. After all, reading is a complex form of problem solving at its heart through decoding letters and making meaning. As a child narrates this exploratory play while playing in, out and with the box, language skills are advanced as well.
To develop a child’s lifelong love of reading, children should be interacting with books early and often. The earlier that we can help children begin to associate books and reading with positive emotions, the better we are fostering a love of reading and preparing them for reading success in the future.