How do you hold a book? Which is the front? Where is the back? In which direction do the words flow – up, down, to the left, to the right? When someone is speaking can you tell the difference between a question and a statement? How do young children learn the things we, as adults, take for granted?
Through experience and practice. When you read to a child and talk about the book and the story, children learn about books, the meaning of print, the structure of stories and language. Children also build vocabulary, enhance sentence-building skills, and make connections.
When you have meaningful conversations with children using a normal voice tone children will learn to hear the subtle intonations that carry so much meaning. Intonations also carry emotion through a conversation – emotion that is important for both parties to a conversation to be aware of.
When you sing to a child s/he will learn the music of the spoken language as it ebbs and flows. Language has a rhythm to it whether written or spoken, a predictable sequence, structure, and rules that are also found in music.
Every moment can be a “teachable moment.” Driving in the car, singing favorite songs, checking out signs in the grocery store, playing with toys, bath time, eating meals together around the table… any time you are engaging your child in meaningful conversation, thinking aloud about the world around you and telling stories, you are having an impact on her/his literacy development.
The development of literacy (including the capacity to read) begins with oral communication. Take the time!
Read to your children every day Share knowledge and teach skills Provide open-ended experiences Listen Play Sing Ask questions and remember a child can’t use her words until you give her the words to use.