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 #4

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 #4: Encourage their natural curiosity

Young children love to develop “islands of expertise,” or topics about which they care deeply and learn all they can—for example, a youngster may become obsessed with dinosaurs or trains. These nascent interests will eventually evolve into school subjects such as science or history, and you can encourage their development not only with experiences (such as a visit to the museum), or objects (like a train set), but also with books.

Find the things your little ones love to learn more about and look for books on those subjects. Don’t limit yourself to simply gathering facts, either (although that appeals to many kids). Look for fiction stories, magazine articles, and even poetry about your chosen topic. Your local library and your child’s teacher can be great resources for book recommendations, as can sites like Amazon.com, which can help you search for titles related to your favorite subject.

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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.

Developing Early Literacy Skills — Tip #2

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 #2:  Make time and space in your home for reading

Think about your kitchen for a minute. Picture all of the appliances, the various cupboards and all of their contents, and the amount of time you and your family spend there. It would be obvious to anyone, based on the amount of space allotted for storing and preparing food, that eating is an important activity in our lives. Now, imagine a home in which reading is just as important: shelves filled with books, furniture that allows for reading comfortably, and the inhabitants regularly engaged in the practice. To achieve this goal you needn’t furnish an entire library, but do try to provide a space in which your children can store and access their books easily (including those borrowed from the library or school), such as on low bookshelves or in baskets. Also make sure to have comfy, well-lit areas for reading, whether on the couch, at a desk, or in bed. The greater prominence you give to books in your home, the more your child will view them as an integral part of daily life.

Feeling inspired to create a reading area in your home? Check out Lookio’s “Reading Nooks for Kids” board on Pinterest.

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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 #1

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 #1: Be your child’s first and best reading role model

Dad Reading to Child

As any parent who’s ever said a “bad word” in front of a two-year-old can tell you, kids are constantly observing the adults in their lives, ready to mimic their actions and words. Use that power for good when it comes to reading by showing (and not just telling) your child how important and fun reading can be every day. Let your children see you reading for enjoyment and information as often as possible. What if you barely have time to make dinner let alone pick up a novel? No problem! Reading isn’t limited to devouring the latest on the bestseller list. Think of how many times, and in how many ways, you do the task of reading each day: news on your tablet or computer, sale flyers for the grocery store, signs and packaging all around you, emails from friends, and on and on. If you make a habit of noting that incidental reading to your child, he or she will start to recognize that reading happens all day, every day, and not just at story time.

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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.