At the ages of three to five, preschoolers are developing a set of skills and sub skills that lay the foundation for later reading and writing.
Just like a child must hold a crayon and scribble before he can write his name, your preschooler must learn some important basics before he can read, write, and understand written communication. In educational jargon, this stage is known as emergent literacy.
A simple example of emergent literacy is the awareness that written text has meaning. If your child points to a sign and says, “Mommy, what does that say?” he “gets it”. Print has meaning.
If he is pointing to the text in a book and making up his own words, or reciting them by heart, he “gets it”. This may seem like a simple matter to you, but a child who doesn’t “get it” is at risk to struggle with literacy acquisition.
Many children pick up emergent literacy skills almost independently. They are curious learners who enjoy experimenting with language, both oral and written. Other children are less explorative, and may need additional coaching. A parent who is aware and informed is most empowered to help his or her child succeed.
If your child is a preschool program, ask his teacher what they are doing to address pre-reading skills. What parts of the daily routine will help your child master the foundations of language he will need as a reader?
Hopefully, the teacher will have a satisfactory answer. If not, the least you can do is share this information with him or her, and encourage him or her to do more to prepare your child.
In today’s blog, I will focus on two emergent literacy skills and break them down for you.
The Skill: Story Telling
How kids do it: “Daddy took me to the store. I got a lollypop! It was red! We got one for Kathy too-a purple one.”
Try this: Gentle questioning can help your child retell a story in sequential order. “What happened? What happened next? Why?” It can be a story as simple as a trip to the grocery store or a visit to the doctor. If your child is struggling with this, sit down with him and draw pictures. You don’t need to be an artist, stick figures will do. “Here’s Jason in the shopping cart, and here’s Daddy. What is Daddy buying?”
As your child’s skills grow, encourage you to retell stories you have read to him from a book. Have him point to the pictures and tell the story in his own words. This lays the foundation for later reading comprehension, and an understanding of story structure.
The Skill: Phonemic Awareness
This means the ability to hear discreet sounds in a word.
How Kids Do It: “Pass the cheese, please. Cheese…please! I rhymed!”
Try this: Model playing around with words and sounds. Point to an object and say “Mop starts with an “MMMM” sound. What else can we find that starts with an “MMMM” sound? Encourage your child to join, and gently coach him along, praising any correct responses. The more you incorporate this activity into your daily routines, the better your child will get at identifying sounds in words.
Rhyming games are a great way to develop phonemic awareness. So are songs that play around with words and sounds, such as the popular song, “I like to eat apples and bananas”.
Whatever activity you chose, keep it light and keep it fun! Good luck!