Did you know researchers have linked early literacy with high school graduation rates? Here are 10 simple ways to invest in your child's future by jump starting their literacy potential:
1. Think of pretend play as your young child's job! Role play fosters language development, a precursor to becoming a successful reader. Encourage kids to play house, school, store, dolls, cars, or doctor. Their imagination is the only limit!
2. Talk, talk, talk and listen. Silence is NOT golden! Help your kids develop key language skills by getting them to describe objects, their feelings, etc. Show them you're very interested in what they have to say, too. This not only builds their confidence but also models how to focus attention and be a good listener.
3. Give babytalk the boot. Don't "dumb down" things when you talk to your kids. They can handle tough vocabulary. Case in point: when talking with one another about dinosaurs, kids have no problem using terms such as tyrannosaurus rex, brontosaurus or triceratops!
4. Sing a ling and chime a rhyme together. Let your hair down and belt out your favorite songs, chant nursery rhymes, or make silly animal sounds. Create goofy lyrics, smooth jazz scats, or cool hip hop tunes. Add fun dance moves to boost the learning--seriously, research supports a connection between kinesthetic movement and cognition!
5. Let your child see you read on your own frequently. Notice I didn't say you need to read books. Read whatever you like--magazines, newspapers, online articles, or the TV Guide--it really doesn't matter!
6. Post words throughout your house! Hang posters in your child's bedroom, frame a poem for the foyer, put a funny note on the fridge, place a wooden cutout of the word family on the mantle--whatever. Exposing kids to lots of examples of print in their environment is beneficial.
7. Let 'em scribble. Pretend writing develops fine motor skills needed for handwriting but also helps kids understand a very basic concept--that they can convey messages with written marks. If scribbling on paper is a struggle, have kids use their index fingers to practice "writing" in sand or fingerpaint. Teach kids to recognize letter shapes by name, too. Show your child a page with only a few words on it, and ask her to point out a specific letter.
8. Teach every letter individually. Many parents think that learning the alphabet is mostly about the Alphabet Song. While that song's great, kids also need to begin learning the sound(s) each letter makes. Chant all the vowel sounds together or pick a letter of the day and go around the house pointing to objects whose names start with that letter. Help your child practice making each letter sound repeatedly.
9. Read to your child regularly, of course. But again, it doesn't have to always be books. You can even read aloud everyday non-fiction like postcards and catalogs that come in the mail, cereal boxes, etc.
10. Do some Q & A. Before reading aloud, peak through the book with your child and talk about the pictures. Can they predict what will happen? While reading, stop on some pages and ask your child questions about the story. At the end, ask what your child's favorite part was, why he liked it, and how he'd describe the book to a friend. Predicting and summarizing are critical thinking skills!