How excited we are when our child first identifies that stop sign on the road, or their favorite fast food restaurant logo while driving in the car! As proud parents, grandparents and caregivers we smile with satisfaction when our little one writes his name for the first time or sings the ABC’s from beginning to end.  For all of us, literacy success translates to school and life success.

There is no magical moment when children suddenly become “readers and writers”, it’s a process that really begins when they are infants.  Turning the pages of their favorite board book, singing songs and lullabies, cooing to a responsive smile and communicating with signs and gestures are all vital signs that sounds, language and print have meaning.

Toddlerhood brings us more evidence that our child is growing and learning about their world through literacy. Our little ones delight as they hear, sing or dance to their favorite nursery rhyme or song.  They pretend to read books and look at pictures with interest, often labeling objects, thus expanding their vocabulary. Caregivers now respond frequently to the words and sounds of their toddler, allowing the give-and-take of conversation to take place.  Reinforcing appropriate language skills, reading regularly, using descriptive language often and being in tune to your toddlers means of communication is key for language and literacy development.

Literacy is further enhanced as children gain experience with oral language and print in the preschool years.  School settings play a huge role in facilitating this learning process.  Home environments and family interactions also have a great influence on a child’s literacy success. As parents and family members we must take on the challenge of making this task work in our fast- paced, busy lives!  Throughout the day try some of these literacy building activities:

Car/Train rides – Bring along paper, pens, magnetic boards, or CD’s for drawing, singing, and interactive games.

Dining Out– Read menus together, play word/picture hunt games, and have your child order themselves. Play a game arranging the sugar packets in the shapes of letters of your child’s name

Shopping – Make a list together for what you need on your next errands, let your child find some of the written items and cross it off the list when the job is accomplished

Sending messages – Show them how you e-mail someone and point out the corresponding icons, read what you have written and then read the response or write a “real”  letter to someone (address and stamp too) and let your child send a picture with it

Cooking together – Find a favorite recipe and follow it together, giving your child a special job to help with preparation and let them help set the table

Writing stories – On a special trip or vacation have your child keep a diary or journal with pictures, narratives or photos added to highlight their experiences

For sure, these activities take a little extra time and effort.  The joy and enrichment it provides is well worth it. You have the opportunity of a lifetime to be an active and influential part of your child’s learning – connect the links to literacy success and build a loving, responsive relationship with your child!

by Nancy Nathanson, Regional Education Supervisor