Today we have a guest post from Valerie at BabywiseMom.com! She’s writing all about the many ways to develop a strong literacy background for your children, and outlines many of the milestones you can expect.
Many of the early years on up through the time your child reads fluently, you may find yourself worrying if your child is meeting milestones correctly to be on track for being a great reader. Reading is an important life skill, and you want to ensure your child can develop that skill.
The good news is that there are simple things you can do to help your child meet literacy milestones. You don’t need to be intense. You don’t need to enroll in some super-elite preschool from the age of 2 weeks old (or ever). You just need to be present and interactive with your child, and barring a learning disability, these simple tasks will be enough for your child to be on par with literacy milestones.
Simple Ways to Develop Literacy Milestones
1-Read Aloud to Your Child
The best way to help your child meet literacy milestones is to read to your child. Have reading each day be a normal part of your routine. 30 minutes is a great length to aim for. You can start reading to your child from birth, but for sure start by 6 months old. Read a variety of books, and change up types and levels as your child gets older. At the same time, however, read what your child loves. Reading the same book over and over (and over and over) again is actually beneficial toward building literacy skills, so go all in.
Children can understand books above their own reading level, so once you have a child actually reading, continue to read books aloud, and choose books on levels beyond what your child could read independently.
2-Have Family Dinner
A surprising benefit of having dinner together as a family is boosting vocabulary. Family dinner actually boosts vocabulary more effectively than being read aloud to. Mind blown! Children learn best when they hear language from more than one source, so dinner is a fantastic place for this to happen. Increased vocabulary helps with literacy milestones because when you know what words mean, it is easier to read and understand books.
3-Talk to Your Baby and Child
Talk to your child. Talk with your child. When you have a baby, talk to the baby about what you are doing, what you see, and what is going on. Talk face to face, but don’t refrain from talking if you can’t be face to face. When your child starts to talk with you, listen and talk back. Also, be attentive and respond quickly:
“Studies have shown that children of mothers who respond to them within 5 seconds are six months ahead in language development of those whose mothers take longer than 5 seconds. The most important thing is not you starting conversations, it is how you respond to what your child is saying to you (Nurture Shock page 208). “
4-Respond to Non-Verbal Cues
Babies understand language far before the speak it. Respond to the non-verbal cues your baby or young toddler gives. Make eye contact with your little ones. Name things and point to them. Object label the things in your baby’s world. Read more about enhancing language development here.
5-Read Books Yourself
Example is one of the most powerful parenting tools out there. Let your child see you read. Read things yourself if you want your child to have an interest in reading.
Literacy Milestones to Watch For
Early intervention is powerful. There are some children who need more attention and some intervention to stay on track for meeting milestones. Here are some things to watch for to know your child is on par with expected milestones. For each age range, look for books that support the development of the skills your child can be meeting at that time. For example, if your child is 3 and should be able to recognize rhymes, read books that rhyme. If your child has no exposure to rhyming, you can’t expect your child to be capable of rhyming.
- 6-12 Months Old: Your child in this age range should be smiling, babbling, cooing, and making noises. Your child should enjoy listening to what you have to say. Your child will start to say simple sounds and even a word (or many words). Your child will start to recognize and respond to his/her name.
During this age, be sure you are talking back and naming everything you can name. Again, respond to those non-verbals.
- 12-24 Months Old: Your child will say words. They start out just saying one word, but as they get older, they start to put more than one word together and even work up to simple sentences. A child in this age range will bring you books to read, be interactive with the book (pointing at things), and recognizes which way to hold the book (so it isn’t upside down). Your child will be able to start to name objects in a book, so it is a great time to ask your child what things are as you read those books together.
During this age, be sure to respond to your child’s attempts at communication.
- 2 Year Olds: As a two year old, your child will continue to add to his/her vocabulary that is spoken. Your two year old will be able to name objects that she knows well. Two year olds are notorious for wanting the same book read over and over, and you will find your two year old can complete sentences and rhymes. You might even find your two year old can recite that favorite book word for word (great time to have your child read a book to you!).
- 3 Year Olds: As a three year old, your child will more and more recite phrases from books or again, the full book. Your child might start to recognize letters. This is a great time for reciting the alphabet and pointing to letters. A three year old should start to be able to tell there is rhyming happening, but do not stress out if your child can’t always say rhyming words perfectly. You may find your three year old reading to his/her toys.
This is a great age to make up stories with your child. You can also point out words that start or end the same. When reading a story your child knows, ask what happens next. This is retelling a story.
- 4 Year Olds: A four year old can listen longer, so you can start to read longer picture books. Some four year olds might have some interest in chapter books, but do not push them if your child has no interest. There are many fairy tales and fables with some pictures, but more words than your typical picture book.
Your four year old should be able to recognize rhymes, but there are plenty of children still working on this skill in the kindergarten classroom, so if your child struggles with rhymes, exposure to rhyming stories is a great idea, but don’t let the lack of rhyming ability stress you out too much. A four year old will be able to learn what letters are and what sounds they make. These skills of rhyming and knowing letters can only come if the child is exposed to things that teach these skills, so do not expect a four year old to know the sounds of each letter if he/she has never been taught.
To improve your child’s interest in letters and other literacy aspects, encourage your child to participate in literary activities. Point out what letters are in your child’s name. He/she will have interest in that. Encourage your child to write things and to draw things. Ask your child about the story being read. Talk about parallels (or opposites!) between your child’s life and the story being read.
In the end, reading stories, talking with your child, and being an example of a reader are all enough to encourage literacy skills in your child’s development. You don’t need to do anything big and grand. The small and simple steps will help your child be where she needs to be.
Valerie is the mother to four and blogs about all things parenting at www.BabyWiseMom.com.