Posts Tagged ‘early literacy’

Do Babies Need to Read?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

my baby can readI didn’t have cable TV when my kids were born, which still didn’t keep me from hearing about the amazing ‘My Baby Can Read Program’ and its infomercial from lots of well-meaning people. I needed to do it. All the other babies were learning to read, and my kid was going to be behind in pre-k if I didn’t buy it.

Of course, there are tons of programs out there being marketed to new parents. DVDs that will make your kids musical prodigies, foreign language products, alphabet and vocabulary flash cards, baby workbooks…the list is endless. Did I end up buying or being gifted some of that stuff? Yep. Did it work?

Well, according to one recent study, no. The only tangible results from baby reading programs were that the parents thought their babies were learning to read (spoiler alert: they weren’t).

Literacy is something we all want for our children, so if early videos and flashcards aren’t doing the trick, what is? (Which leads me to another question, does very early literacy automatically equate to “more” literacy? I don’t know. I’ve seen research done on preschool’s effect on later academic success, but not on children prior to preschool age.)

The advice that was probably given to our parents still holds true: if you want to foster literacy in your children, you need to read to them. Try and build a varied and rich home library. Become regulars at your local library. Let your kids see you reading. And keep reading to them.

If you have an older child in school, I have found the Scholastic book orders sent home each month to be a fairly affordable way to introduce new books into our library. Some friends for Christmas this past year did a book advent calendar, where each day the children got to open a new book. Kids can be hard on books, but thrift stores and yard sales (and Internet yard sale pages) can also be inexpensive places to source new reading material.

And honestly, if you want to buy your baby early learning materials, go for it. The NYU study cited above didn’t find that babies learned to read, but it didn’t find that it hurt their development in any way, either.

Meaghan Howard is a temporary expat and stay at home mom. She, her husband and two rambunctious boys live in Japan.

Top 5 Ways to Foster Early Literacy Skills

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

What are early literacy skills? They are the foundational skills needed for reading and writing. There are gimmicks and programs available on the market that claim to “teach” your baby to read at a very young age. Personally I am not a fan of these types of structured programs because 1) there is not adequate research to support their efficacy and 2) they approach literacy development in a highly contrived manner. I much prefer fostering early literacy skills using an authentic and child-friendly approach. Here are 5 simple ways you can encourage development of pre-reading and writing skills with your little one(s):

1. Sing Songs – Songs and Nursery Rhymes offer children a great deal of exposure to rhyme and repetition as well as help to develop phonemic awareness. If you don’t know very many children’s songs, perhaps check your local library activity schedule. Many libraries offer a story-time (even for very young babies) where singing children’s songs is included. Another great option is to buy or borrow children’s CDs. I really like Greg and Steve, Raffi, and Jim Gil.

2. Create a Literacy Rich Environment – A literacy rich environment is one that provides children ample opportunity to engage in pre-reading and writing activities. For example provide a large selection of developmentally appropriate books on a low shelf for easy access and  have writing/drawing materials (paper, crayons, markers, etc) readily available. It can also include providing materials such as alphabet stickers, magnetic letters, and children’s games that focus on literacy skills.

3. Model Importance of Reading and Writing – Even if you are not a recreational reader, you probably engage in numerous reading and writing tasks each day such as looking up a recipe, writing a “to-do” list, or writing down directions for someone. Simply by modeling the many different ways reading and writing serve a purpose in your day to day life can help your child understand and appreciate the importance of literacy development. Do these activities in the presence of your child and even comment to your child about them.

4. Engage in Conversations and Oral Story Telling - Capitalize on down time such as the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment or while getting the oil changed in the car by engaging in conversation, telling stories, or playing word games with your child. Development of oral language increases a child’s capacity and readiness for reading and writing. My children and I like to play a game we call “I’m Thinking of Something”. One person will begin by saying “I thinking of something…” and proceed to give clues, until the other players can guess what the person is describing. Another fun game is to tell chain stories. One person starts the story and then points to another player to allow them to continue the story. This can continue for as many rounds as desired until the story is complete. Oral games such as these not only provide an enjoyable past-time, they help children develop vocabulary, sequencing, memory, and comprehension skills.

5. Read to Your ChildResearch shows that children who are read to are far more likely to become competent readers. And it is never too early to start reading to your child! (I read to my first baby in utero, where as subsequent babies naturally heard me reading aloud to older siblings). Even very young babies will not only enjoy, but benefit from being read to. Reading with your child is one of the easiest, but perhaps most important ways you can help prepare your child for life long learning. Don’t worry if your child wants to read the same book over and over (and over) again! They gain a great deal from enjoying a favorite book time and time again. While it’s not always fun for you to read Goodnight Moon 157 times in a week, perhaps knowing it serves a purpose in your child’s reading development just might persuade you to say “yes” when they ask for the 158th time. :) (Although, I fully understand if for “some reason” Goodnight Moon suddenly disappeared from the bookshelf for a while ;)).

What activities do you enjoy with your child(ren) that help foster early literacy skills? Would love to hear your ideas! :) 

-Sarah

PS. Don’t forget about this week’s Fan Photo Friday! Let’s see some Fluffy Bums! Send a photo of your baby in a favorite cloth diaper to sarah@momsmilkboutique.com by Thursday, June 28. Be sure to include any information you want shared such as age of child, type of diaper, why it is a favorite, etc. Then check back on Friday, June 28 to see some seriously cute babies and their fluffy bottoms! Winner gets 25 Milk Miles deposited into their account!!