Developing Early Literacy Skills — Tip #5

Each day this week, in honor of International Literacy Day (September 8) and the back-to-school season, we are posting practical, research-based tips for encouraging young readers.

By Chazmin Baechler

Tip #5: Words, words, words!

Research shows that early vocabulary development is a strong predictor of not only future reading ability, but overall success in school. When children are able to understand and use a wide variety of words, they make better sense of what they are taught (in both listening and reading tasks), and are better able to express themselves. Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

To help your child find the right words, be sure to use them yourself; be descriptive and be specific. Is your child playing with his toy or his big, yellow bulldozer? Are you feeling happy or are you excited, joyful, thrilled, or grateful? Challenge yourself to use language that is colorful and specific, and your child’s sponge-like brain (yes, even the littlest ones!) will absorb the richness of your words. Other great ways to explore and enjoy words include: playing word games, singing songs, writing stories with your child, and making note of interesting words you come across.

This past week we covered just a few of the many, many ways to encourage your children to become readers for life. Do you have your own go-to strategies? Please share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!

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Chazmin Baechler holds a Masters of Science in Education degree from Northwestern University and taught second grade in Chicago and Wilmette, IL. She currently works as a freelance educational consultant in Geneva, IL, where she lives with her husband and son. You can reach her at  chazminbaechler (at) gmail (dot) com.

Developing Early Literacy Skills — Tip #3

Each day this week, in honor of International Literacy Day (September 8) and the back-to-school season, we are posting practical, research-based tips for encouraging young readers.

By Chazmin Baechler

Tip #3: Read aloud to your child

Most parents already have the bedtime story routine down pat, but you may not realize just how important that activity actually is. Reading aloud to children has a number of important benefits.

First, reading aloud to kids allows them to experience the magic of stories well before they are able to read independently, letting them hear more complicated texts than they could tackle on their own.  It also demonstrates for them what fluent reading should sound like. We know that beginning readers may go slowly, word by word, so hearing an experienced reader go smoothly through sentences and paragraphs allows them to better understand how their reading should develop.

Also, when you do all the voices in the story or really ham up the action, your child gets a sense of what expressive reading sounds like. So go ahead and channel your inner actor when you read aloud; your child will not only be entertained, but will also learn how to make the words on the page come alive.

Finally, when you read aloud to your child, you have a chance to interact with the text and demonstrate how you make meaning from the words. For example, when Red Riding Hood starts to notice her “Granny’s” big eyes and teeth, stop and ask your child what is really going on, or offer your theory. This demonstrates how reading is a process in which we do a lot of work ourselves. In books for younger children, this may be as simple as looking at and describing the pictures in the story, which can then evolve into asking questions, making predictions, or discussing character traits with older readers.

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Chazmin Baechler holds a Masters of Science in Education degree from Northwestern University and taught second grade in Chicago and Wilmette, IL. She currently works as a freelance educational consultant in Geneva, IL, where she lives with her husband and son. You can reach her at  chazminbaechler (at) gmail (dot) com.