Your Child's Literacy Starts Now

How young was your child when you started teaching him or her to read? The benefits of early literacy are significant.

Studies have found amazing results among those children who learn to read at a very early age. Here are just a few of the findings:

  • Children who learn to read at a young age reach higher levels of scholastic achievement.
  • Early literacy is associated with reduced incidences of juvenile delinquency.
  • Children who learn to read at a young age have higher graduation rates.

Oral Language as a Foundation for Literacy Development

In our quest to increase literacy among our children, let us not forget about the important role of oral language.

Studies indicate that when children are raised in families with oral traditions, "rich language,” and literacy support, the children do better in school.

Exposing children to sophisticated vocabulary helps boys and girls enrich their vocabulary as well.

In addition, when a child understands a more sophisticated vocabulary, their skills will translate into more advanced reading skills.

When to Start Teaching Your Child to Read

There is a fallacy that reading begins in kindergarten. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Studies show that introducing toddlers – and even those younger – to picture books is an important first step.

Experts now know that language and literacy developed concurrently, and the can actually influence each other. Vocabulary a child here is in discussions will help the child when they find that vocabulary in their reading materials.

When children fall behind in oral and literacy development, it can take years for them to catch up.

Parents play a very special role in their children's scholastic achievements. Literacy does not begin when the school bell rings. It begins much earlier.

Childhood Benchmarks

From a child's birth to age 3, toddlers should be able to make sounds that imitate tones and rhythms, respond to gestures and facial expressions, begin to associate words they hear with their meanings, recognize books by their covers, pretend to read books, understand how to handle a book, talk about characters in books, listen to stories, asked to be read to, and scribble.

Between the ages of three and four, most preschoolers should be able to:

  • Enjoy listening to and talking about storybooks.
  • Understand that letters printed on a page forms words and carries messages.
  • Make attempts to read and write.
  • Identify some letters.

At age 5, the majority of children can:

  • Enjoy being read to.
  • Retell simple stories.
  • Use descriptive language.
  • Begin to match spoken words with written words.

All of these benchmarks depend on the parents. So introduce books to your child as early as possible. Let your children play with books, thumb through books, and even scribble on books.

Help your children to enjoy books, to look forward to story time, and to yearn to learn to read on their very own.

For more information on these topics, I encourage you to look at the Reading Is Fundamental website as well as the Reading Rockets website, where I found some of the data for this blog post.

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Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free