Thoughtful Parenting: National March into Literacy Month
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss was born March 2, 1904. In honor of his birthday, March is National March into Literacy Month. Dr. Seuss encouraged all to have fun with reading, and that’s your role as a parent — to help your child develop a love for reading and an interest in language. The following are ideas about how to do that.
Read aloud with your child
Before they are born, children learn to tune into the sounds of language. Our brains are hard-wired to listen to language and learn to use it. Reading out loud is an important way for children to begin to understand what the language of books sounds like, which paves the way for them to understand what they read.
From the time they are just a few months old, children enjoy being read to. Don’t be afraid to read to your child even before they understand the words. Just listening to the patterns of language in books will start to grow connections in their brains.
Once they get a bit older, you can read to them even if they want to get up and move around the room. They can still listen to the words while engaging in another activity.
As children get older, we often push them to read books by themselves. Remember that there is always benefit in reading a book aloud to your child, no matter their age. Reading things that are too hard for them to read on their own helps to support their ability to understand what they read and continues the relationship benefits of reading books together.
Encourage mental imagery
A book is much more fun and interesting when we understand it. One way that we make sense of what we read is by creating a picture or movie in our minds. You can encourage your child to make these mental images by pausing every few sentences of paragraphs, talking about your own mental image, sharing how the pictures in your mind help you to understand the story and asking your child to share what he or she sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels in the story. You can also ask children to draw their own pictures of what happened in a story to encourage this skill.
Find environmental print
Environmental print is the writing we see in everyday life — signs, labels, logos, etc. When children are first paying attention to print and seem curious about it, usually in early preschool, you can play games to help encourage this interest. The following are some ideas.
- When you’re eating breakfast, ask your child to find the first letter of his or her name on the cereal box.
- Talk about the sounds of the letters you see on signs as you drive. On a stop sign, for example, say, “The S makes the /ssssss/ sound.”
- Encourage your child to recognize the words on labels and signs. They won’t really be reading these words, but they can start to recognize that M is at the beginning of McDonalds.
Always remember your job as a parent is not to teach your child to read, but to encourage a love of reading and language by reading together. Your child is never too young or too old to read with you.
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.”
– Dr. Seuss
Beth Melton and Kim Schulz are the owners of Steamboat Reading, providing intensive support, assessment and advocacy services for students who struggle with reading and their families. For more information, visit steamboatreading.org.
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