Early literacy is defined as the pre-reading skills children acquire from ages 0-5, which help them prepare for and succeed in school.
Children are born with 100 billion brain cells, the same number as adults, and 85% of those cells are developed before kindergarten. Brain researchers liken brain development to building a house, and the first three years are vital to building a strong foundation and framework. The bonds a child forms in his early years are crucial to future learning and success. Parents are children’s first teachers, so at the Library we work to educate parents on the importance of shared reading and learning experiences. The Library’s programs and collections emphasize the five early literacy practices, as outlined in the American Library Association’s “Every Child Ready to Read” program: Sing, Talk, Read, Write and Play.
Singing (which includes nursery rhymes) increases children’s awareness of and sensitivity to the sounds of words. It doesn’t matter if you are a “good singer” – children will respond to your voice before all others. Have fun with silly songs and bounces, or soothe children with lullabies and gentle swings. The Library has a great collection of children’s music CDs and nursery rhyme books.
Talking with children helps them build their vocabulary and learn oral language. Self-expression and narrative skills are crucial to communication and developing interpersonal relationships. Talk to your child about your day together, ask them questions, and narrate your activities (e.g.: “Now we are putting on our shoes, so we can go and play at the park”). The Library is a great place for your child to interact with others his or her own age!
Reading together, or shared reading, remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers. Expose children to a variety of books and authors – your library card allows you to borrow up to 100 items for 3 weeks at a time, so borrow away! Our board book collection is intended for our youngest readers – the thick cardboard, laminated pages stand up to exploring hands (and teeth!). Let your child practice turning the pages, point out pictures together…let your child have fun with books. It’s also great to be a reader role model – if your child sees you enjoying books and newspapers, they will learn that reading is an enjoyable pastime.
Writing, scribbling and colouring all help children learn fine motor skills and learn that written words stand for spoken language. Pick up your weekly colouring sheet at the Library and help your child practice writing his or her name. Point to words when you read together. Use alphabet magnets to put together sounds and words on the fridge.
Playing helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words represent real objects and experiences. Play develops their imagination, creativity and social skills. Children will often mimic real life situations (grocery store shopping or “playing library”), helping them make sense of their world.
Storytimes for babies through to preschoolers are held at branches across the region!
Details about these programs, and others, can be found on our website: http://www.orl.bc.ca.
Have fun visiting the Library and exploring these early literacy practices with your child.
Written by Elena Doebele, Head Librarian for Westbank Branch