Research has shown that as early as 20 weeks gestation a baby can hear sounds in the womb, and at 10 weeks before the delivery date, babies can recognize the voice of their mother and start to understand language.
Creating a love for literacy is progressive which could start as early as before birth and the methods of which we introduce or teach language and literacy skills evolve as our children grow.
It is never too early to start. As soon as a baby is born we talk and sing to her. I recall my first 2 weeks home with my new born daughter and I would talk to her all the time and read through books with her. The most comforting time we had together while singing, talking and reading was while we were snuggled up with each other or when she was nursing. This I believe was the start of her ‘Love of Literacy’ especially being that she would begin to correlate these activities with the comfort and security of being in my arms. This was also the time when she first looked up and smiled at me.
As she began to develop, we would start to look through books together in a different way. I would encourage her to turn the pages of the book and we would talk more about the pictures in the book and kept less to the script within the story. The importance of the story within a book would come later. Books could be found everywhere in the house and there was always a favourite tucked away in the diaper bag for our travels. We even had books in the bath tub! Finger plays, rhymes and chants were also becoming some of her favourite ways to interact.
As a toddler she was surrounded by a variety of board books. We would read through the story and talk about the pictures in the book. When we would go out, she was starting to identify objects in the ‘real world’ that she had learned about in the books which then gave us even more to talk about and discover.
Once she became a preschooler, her books became magical stories. She was now interested in the story and learning about the characters. After reading a story with her we would then talk about what happened in the beginning, middle and end. Now she was learning about sequencing too! She now had a full grasp on what books are all about. So much so, that she started to share her books with an audience of stuffed animals. She mostly made up the story to go along with the pictures, but would sometimes recall parts of the story to retell and would be sure that everyone in the audience could see the pictures.
September 2012 came in a flash, and she was starting Kindergarten. I had hoped that I had prepared her the best I could for the new learning environment that she was about to enter. She quickly started to learn small sight words. I noticed how excited she would get when she could pick out the words in the books that we were reading, so we made up a game to see how many of that specific word she could find in the story as we read it through. Soon enough, she was coming home with reader books and she was starting to read on her own with some help. She also began to become inquisitive about how a picture book comes together. We started to talk about authors and illustrators. Who wrote the words and who made the pictures? Her comprehension of literature was astounding me.
She is now in grade 1 and she will read to me as many books as I read to her. Although bed time is our favourite time to share books, we make reading part of our everyday no matter where we are….grocery store, restaurant, shopping mall or in the car. She also received a book light for Christmas which has given her a new fun way to enjoy her books in the dark.
So what is the next step? She has developed her love for literacy, but how do I keep it going?
I was discussing this with some colleagues recently, and I discovered what the next step is. We talked about the statement, ‘ If your child sees you reading and enjoying it, then they are more likely to do the same.’ Someone had mentioned that they set aside a time frame in the day (15 mins to start) for herself and her daughter to sit and read to themselves. This isn’t to replace the time to read aloud but was in addition to and creates the opportunity to serve as a role model and demonstrate how the love of reading and literacy carries through to your adult life.
I am looking forward to the time when my daughter wants to talk with me about the book she is reading and how fun it is to enter the magical world of books!