Using your child’s NAME as a teaching tool

Feb 1, 2013 by

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAA friend of mine from Twitter (Sonya – Lean On Us) recently tweeted an article titled, “On the importance of addressing people by their names.” It was written by Sté Kerwer, who points out the value of using someone’s name in social media.

Soon after I met Dr. Sally, many years ago, I began teaching literacy workshops at a local bookstore. Later, Sally and I started running the classes together. During our discussions, Sally mentioned time and time again: “Our favorite word is our own name. Did you know that, Shara? It’s true! We love hearing our own name. It makes us feel special and important. ”

Sally has written a few posts about this topic on her Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally blog. Here’s a fun post that Sally wrote for my Early Childhood site back in June of 2012: Use your child’s name as much as possible!

One day, Sally told me that she wanted to create a book together, for my personalized book business. We came up with the “That’s My Name” theme. You can view a sample here: Samantha Name Book To this day, the name book is one of my top sellers. This morning I received an email from a mom who ordered back in December. She shared:

Hi Shara, I’m  not sure if I ever emailed you.  We did get the book and he loves it.  We were just reading it again and I wanted to email and thank you.  He asks for it all the time and really enjoys reading it.

I’m not showing you this in order to sell books. I rarely have time to make them any longer, considering how busy Mommy Perks has gotten. I’m sharing the information because the article I read this morning ties in so perfectly with a topic that’s been a part of my life ever since I met Dr. Sally: the value of using your child’s name. My eldest daughter learned to spell her name after using a book that I made for her. The personalized touch, along with personal photos, drew her right in, and she was spelling her name in a matter of weeks.

Here are a few ideas you may like:

If you want to create your own home-made book, do a quick search online for “print your own book.” You’ll find various sites offering printable pages. You can fill in the blanks, add some personal photos to go along, and staple the pages together.

Personally, I like to add social emotional terms to my stories. You could print the book pages and write a story about your child, using their name, along with terms like: kind, caring, sharing, gentle, etc. For instance: “Samantha loves to share her toys. This is very kind. Samantha enjoys giving hugs when someone is sad. This is a caring thing to do.” Now you’re using your child’s name with an added dose of meaningful language (a key factor in reading success, remember!).

Here’s another tip, from my years of learning with Dr. Sally: Get a photo album at the store with flip pages (like a small book). Place blank pages into the sleeves on the left. Place photos of your child into the sleeves on the right. Write one letter on each of the blank pages, to spell out your child’s name. For instance: the first page might have the letter “B.” The next page would have “r.” Then “i.” Then “a” and then “n.” Until you have spelled Brian. On the last page write “Brian.” Flip through the album together or allow your child to hold the album on car rides, flipping through at leisure (natural learning).

A third option you may enjoy: Use photos of your child and write one letter on the back of each one. Laminate the photos and add them to a flip ring (as seen in the photo above). Spell your child’s name across the images: L-i-l-l-y. As your child plays with the photos, she/he will see the letters spelled out. Finish the set by having the full name on the last photo: Lilly. My kids love playing with their flip rings at home, in the car, while waiting in line, etc. They don’t directly realize they are learning anything. They’re simply having fun flipping through the pictures and viewing the letters.

In closing…

I love that Sté Kerwer is suggesting the use of names for grown-ups, also. We all enjoy hearing our own name. In regard to emergent literacy I would suggest that the use of your child’s name, right from birth, is one great way to encourage their language development. With my 9 month old, I often speak her name as we spend time together: “Sophia, look! There’s your sister and brother playing in the water. One day soon you’ll be playing in the water, too.” It’s amazing how quickly babies pick up on their name and know exactly who you are talking to and referencing.

Have fun!

More reading: Have your older child practice their name on a menu (you can also use old clear-window CD cases as dry erase boards. Just slip paper inside and shut the case. Write on the outside again and again.)

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