Early Literacy Skills – Preparing Children for Reading

August 10, 2021 by admin

Parents play a significant role in developing your child’s language and communication. Since the early years are the most crucial years for brain development, the quality of your child’s experiences will contribute immensely to their language development and success in life. While parents and teachers may think that kindergarten children can wait later to be introduced to books, many studies show that these early literacy skills have a strong correlation to children’s success in school and beyond.

What exactly are early literacy skills? How do we know if kindergarten children can really understand and be engaged when reading? Early literacy skills refer to the knowledge of being able to read and write and there are five skills to focus on before school:

Your child’s ability to speak and understand language will help them understand their world. Starting by singing rhymes and imitating the sounds when your baby, you can extend that by making sounds and repeating the words when they say the sound, then transitioning into sight words and phonics. As children get older, ask them questions on their environment, such as “who is that?” while pointing to them on a mirror and things that they use or characters in picture books, for example, “how do you think the bears feel when they find someone one their bed?” and extend into open-ended questions. You can build on these conversations and focus on back-and-forth interactions to provide them with opportunities to learn to ask questions, take turns in an interaction and build confidence to communicate. Remember to observe, wait and listen for your child’s cues. Facial gestures or expressions can be a great indicator and give some time for your child to start the conversation. Don’t be disappointed if your child response in sounds, but treat these sounds, looks or gestures as their “turn” in the interaction.

The more words your child knows, the easier it is for your child to understand and learn what is said in school and at home. Besides continuing to have conversations with child, have your child pick a book and read aloud until they are ready to read on their own. Visual and repetitive books can consolidate their vocabulary because of their predictability and ability to interact. You can always change it up with book genres, or simplify the story, and use props or games to act out characters in the book. When reading, emphasize key words by slowing down, repeating or showing a picture of the word, and expand your child’s language by extending on what they say. For example, if your child says, “here’s a cow!”, you can respond with “Yes, here’s a cow walking on the farm.”  Elaborating on your child’s sentences show them how to produce longer sentences, and you can transition to talking and reading about imaginary things, such as castles, heroes and pirates, where they have to think about these topics. Discuss with your child on predicting what will happen (what happen to the dogs after?), compare and contrast (what is different between a dog and a cat?) and make connections (remember when you saw your friend’s cat?) to encourage them to think, imagine and explore.

Story Comprehension
If children only know sounds but not understand the story, they won’t be able to enjoy the joy of reading. When reading on short passages, make connections to their environment by showing them the items that are mentioned in the book, and have your child find out what is important in the story, such as the main characters or describe the changes in characters. While reading, guide your child to find clues in the story. For example, if a dog that is jumping and happy in the book is suddenly laying down and sad, we can assume that it may be sick. Help your child identify these clues and have them guess what is happening. Creating experiences to bring the stories to life will also consolidate their understanding and develop their imagination. Talk to your child and have them describe the scene in their own words and encourage them to draw or act out their idea of the scene. If your child like to pretend play by imitating adults’ actions or pretend with less familiar actions, such as being a firefighter or walking on clouds, encourage by taking turns and getting into it.

Knowledge on Words
When your child can say simple words and sentences, be sure to guide them on how printed word works. Although children see print in various forms, such as books, magazines and signs, introduce them how words work, for example, how different letters function together through word games such as sandpaper letters and scrabble. Engage your child when reading by assigning tasks such as holding paper and book correctly and introduce them to the order of reading books (read from left to right and turn pages correctly). If you see your child scribbling or drawing, that is a good sign that they are curious, and understand that words have meaning. You can expand it by helping them make signs and make their own book.

Sound Awareness
Sound awareness is the ability to hear and identify sounds in spoken word. Children who have strong sound awareness understand rhymes, syllables and that sounds can be broken down or blended into other words. You can expose and point out rhymes to children while reading and have them make their own rhymes when ready. Clapping to the number of syllables, for example one for dog and two for kennel will let them understand that number of syllables make up a word. Once your child is more familiar with sounds, you can help them make words by pronouncing sounds and blending them to make words, for example, sh..eep is sheep. To make sound awareness fun, you can have children find the beginning and end sounds of a word, practice syllables with building blocks and try making your own words!

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