Developing literacy in your child doesn’t mean you need to cultivate the next Shakespeare or Kipling -- although you never know. It does mean promoting the skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening and understanding. Your child is equipped from birth to absorb all of these skills through venues that can be -- well -- child’s play.
Talking to your child from the moment he arrives sets the stage for language development. Talk and babble to your infant in strange and silly sounds. Let him see your lips move and exaggerate the vowels and consonants. As he gets older and sounds start coming out of him, patiently and consistently repeat the correct pronunciation. Over time, he’ll get the hang of it.
Singing teaches language and encourages listening and speaking skills. Think back to your childhood favorites such as "Mary had a Little Lamb" or the "Alphabet Song." If that’s farther back than you care to remember, use your imagination and make up songs and let him add words or lines or tunes.
Read to your child from the moment he arrives. As he gets older, share the book with him and point out words and encourage discussion. As his skills develop, ask him to read to you. Ask older children whether they’ve read any good books lately and let them see you reading, even if it’s only the newspaper.
Drawing is an effective way to encourage stories and introduce new words and concepts into your budding Renoir’s vocabulary. It gives you an opportunity to keep pens, crayons, paper, markers and other tools associated with literate behavior around the house. Don't forget to put the masterpieces on the frig door.
I spy with my little eye something that is an effective way to have fun and learn new words at the same time. Word games not only promote observation skills, but it’s ideal for learning new sounds. I see a cat. Can you say meow? I see something that starts with T-T-T-T or I see something that rhymes with hog.
This is a way to involve everyone of all ages in your family. Take your youngster's favorite book and assign everyone a part. Let your child have the leading role and have him read the part from the book. You might find you have a budding star on your hands.
Trips to the Library
Library trips can be fun. Most libraries have story times and even library camp during the summer. Start your child young and let him wander through the stacks choosing books that look interesting. Make the library his second home.
Joining a book club at school or online promotes an interest in reading and different genres of books. With all the children books out there, it's hard to know which one to choose. Anticipating books shipped to your house that are suitable to your child's age and tastes can cultivate excitement in your child for the written word.
Imagination makes the world go round and promotes literacy in your child. Tell a story and before it’s finished ask, “What if ...?” Let your young storyteller fill in the blanks with his own imaginings.
The person who developed modeling clay deserves a medal. Sculpting a character from his favorite story, or rolling strings of Play-Doh into letters encourages the learning of numbers, words, writing and comprehension. As he sculpts, pronounce the letters or let him tell you the story behind his creation.