Emergent Literacy At Home
By Shara Lawrence-Weiss
As I was building up this site, getting ready to launch it, an article popped into my inbox from Great Schools. It said, “Actually, there IS a right way.” The tag line linked over to an article titled, “Reading: what it takes to succeed.”
As I read through I began to think, “Oh, boy. Maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong!” Then I realized, “This is talking about children who enter school. What I do, with my own kids, is focused on the birth-5 years, before they enter full time school.”
I really enjoyed the article, though, and allowed it to swim around in my head for a while. I sent the link to my colleague Dr. Sally and asked her to comment on the post. Here’s what she shared:
While reading, writing, listening, and speaking are four parts of the language development process, dependent on each other, they all emerge in their own special ways. Here is the good part. Much of this is natural. Understanding the spoken word comes from parents, caregivers, and teachers who model language well through reading, singing, and talking to children; and understanding the written word (reading) depends on understanding the spoken word and a solid foundation provided by repeated exposure to the alphabet (including our famous alphabet song) and repeated exposure to basic words that have distinct sounds (phonemic awareness). Please remember that everyone is different and has different experiences, but anyone (without any complicating factor) is likely to learn to read and read well when exposed to a rich language environment.
Take Home Thoughts
What did I take home from this article, then? I generally write about early childhood and ways we can build a love of literacy and language in our kids, from the start. I want my own children to have a passion for words and communication, to better serve them during their adult years. Reading articles like the one mentioned above by Peg Tyre assists me in my quest. I want to know more about what science says and what the studies prove/indicate. That gives me ideas for what to do now, with my smaller children, as I ready them for what’s coming.
That’s my daily pondering…what can I be doing now, to help build the pathways for reading success later on? How can I set up my home and our environment to support what’s ahead?
Emergent Literacy at Home
Here are some of the things I’ve done, over the years, to support emergent literacy in our home. I will write about these things in more depth, over time.
- We read to our kids from the start. I came across an article once that mocked parents who read to their kids, inside the womb. The author called these parents “helicopter parents.” I’m not a helicopter parent but I did read to my kids while they were still inside me. I wanted them to hear my voice, my tone, and my appreciation for the written word. It calmed me down and seemed to calm them, also.
- We surround ourselves with books, literature and words.
- My kids ask lots of questions and we attempt to answer each one, helping to build their vocabulary and their understanding for what words mean. If I don’t know an answer I tell them that we’ll look it up together.
- We are not afraid to use big words with our kids. We do not use baby talk.
- We sing, recite, and memorize songs. We dance together, singing the words.
- We discuss what the kids are reading and what books they most enjoy and least enjoy.
- Every child has a bookshelf in their room.
- I created a Book Nook Chalkboard back in 2010.
- We placed a large chalkboard in one room, along with chalk. I write words on there from time to time: Happy Birthday! We love you! Enjoy your day! Etc.
- We play word games in the car.
- We read to our kids and we allow them to read alone, also.
- We let our kids ‘catch us reading’ on a regular basis.
- We use real photos to assist with the understanding of words and feelings.
- I create books for my kids using my own book binding equipment. I write each story myself.
- When reading with the kids, we allow them to stop and pause, point things out, and ask questions – to further their knowledge base of what’s being read.
- We do arts and crafts and we cook and bake.
- We spend lots of time outside and talk about what we did, saw or experienced.
- We spell words verbally, as well as read words.
- We sometimes make our own stories with paper, crayons and a stapler.
- We point out signs everywhere we go: grocery shopping, driving, walking, hiking, etc. We talk about the signs and what they say/mean.
There’s more to be said but I’ll stop here.
I can’t say that each of our methods has scientific backing. What I can tell you is this: all four of my kids were early to verbalize, communicate and understand the meaning of words. My two eldest children were early and avid readers. After starting school the teachers said, “You must support reading at home. I can tell.” The jury is still out on my younger two children but it’s safe to say both were early to chatter and understand words. My younger son has struggled with talking but as far as comprehension goes, related to what we say to him, there’s no struggle at all. My youngest daughter is just 9 months old but she chats up a storm all day long. She tells us stories and uses facial expressions to grab our attention, as she modifies the tone of her voice to go along. The Special Education teacher at school heard her one day and said, “That’s the beginning stages of language you know.” I smiled…
Yeah. I know.