This post is part of my 6×6 series on encouraging literacy in children from birth to five.
Children ages birth to two are characterized as Early Talkers. Every sound children hear at this age, whether its mommy talking or the cooing and babbling of other babies, they soak up like a sponge. All of it gets filed away and put to use in developing their language and understanding of communication. This means that talking, reading, and singing with your baby and young toddler is always a learning experience for them. It is useful and beneficial for their growing brain, evolving senses, and soon to be emerging communication skills.
Have Fun With Books
The first thing we need to do as parents to start our children off right on the road to education and literacy success is to have fun with books! Yes, you can start this as soon as they are out of the womb, or anytime thereafter.
What constitutes having fun? Anything that engages your child, makes them pay attention, giggle, smile, touch, look, and anything that involves YOU! If you are spending time doing something with them, most of the time they will learn to love whatever that is. This is especially true if it also includes funny and silly things that make them smile.
So how do we do this with books? With babies, or early talkers just hearing your voice is a great start, so singing, reading aloud (even if it is just from the newspaper or whatever novel you are reading) are great starts. Once they begin to be more alert and watch things closer (talkers), and possibly even reach out for them, it is time to bust out the touchy-feely and lift-the-flap books. These books are great to purchase for home use because they will enjoy them all through their preschool years. Our books get used by Eli (1 year old, early talker) and Ben (4 year old, pre-reader). Sometimes, when it’s quiet, I sit and read them by myself. They are fun for all ages!
For the young ones in the chewing stage make sure you have board books around. Eating books is a great way to have fun with them. Remember, anything that involves books that they enjoy will create happy connotations with books. This is what you want. Some great board book authors are Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle.
Find some books at the store or library that are based off popular toddler songs. We have a couple that are very popular at our house. One is The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the other is Old McDonald. These are books we sing to. Instead of just reading them, we sing all the words to the proper tune. Kate Toms is great at writing different verses that fit perfectly into the tune. Our kids LOVE these. They have soft covers and plastic pages so they are very durable. AND, we picked them up at Walmart cheap. I still see them there from time to time. Also, aways try to read using voices, funny words, and silly sounds. When there are animals in the books make the correct, or incorrect, animal sound. If you make the wrong sound, don’t worry, your toddler (talker, pre-reader) will correct you. They love being right…who doesn’t?
Most of us always have our phone with us with some toddler games ready to go in case we need them entertained while we are out and about. In addition to phone apps, always take a book or two, or possibly even a child friendly magazine. Search and find books are great choices in these instances for talkers and pre-readers. They love to look at interesting pictures and illustrations. We often take turns finding objects or have a competition to see who can find an object first. Kids magazines like High Five and Highlights always include a search and find activity or two.
It is also fun for kids to make up their own stories, whether they just tell you one or pretend to read a book. This week I tried this activity out with Ben. While I was chopping veggies for dinner he wanted me to read him a book. I told him to read it to me instead, while I worked. He ended up reading three Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Of course, he wasn’t really reading, he was just looking at the pictures and making up, or remembering, the stories. He loved it and felt like such a big boy, and I was able to continue with dinner prep without any crying or tantrums. There are books out there that have just pictures for this purpose, check your local library or bookstore. The child can look at the picture and make up a story based off what they show. This is a great learning and decoding activity for kids to engage in. It requires imagination and prediction skills, among others.
One last idea, make your own books. It’s so easy to take pictures with your phones or tablets these days. Print some pictures out or have your little ones draw and color a few and make your own story books with staples or ribbon. This is not only a great personalized craft activity, but another way to make books FUN!
Information for this post and other 6×6 posts is adapted from the 6×6 READY TO READ cards provided by the State Library of Kansas through a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.