This is the third in a series of ESAA Literacy Parent Connections about Family Literacy. The first letter described what Family Literacy is; the second letter contained information on why Family Literacy is so important. This letter contains information on reading to your child, based on developmental research. The final letter in the series will arrive during summer break and will contain strategies and ideas for you to use with your child during the summer months.
Research indicates that children who are read to regularly by parents, siblings, or other individuals in the home and who have family members who read themselves become early readers and show a natural interest in books. This research is not surprising. Through frequent story readings, children become familiar with book language and realize the function of the written word. Story readings are almost always pleasurable, and the pleasure that is experienced builds a desire for and interest in reading. In addition, continued exposure to books develops children’s vocabularies and sense of story structure, both of which help them learn to read. Below you will find developmental literacy milestones for children and how the family plays a crucial role in reading to children at home.
- From birth to three months, a child’s attention to book reading is erratic. The baby who stares at the pictures and seems content and quiet can be considered receptive. If the baby wiggles, shows discomfort, or cries, the adult might just as well stop reading until the next time.
- From 3 to 6 months, babies become more obviously involved in book readings. They begin to focus on pictures and to listen. Often, they will grab for a book, pound it, and try to put it into their mouths. As long as they seem content, they are probably involved with the reading.
- Six to nine-month-olds can be purposefully involved in story readings. They might try to turn pages. They might respond to changes in the reader’s intonation or make sounds and movements to demonstrate involvement and pleasure. They sometimes begin to show preferences for books that have been read to them before.
- One-year-old babies will show strong involvement in being read to. They might take a leadership role in turning pages or babble along with the tones that sound like reading. They actively look in the book for familiar things that they remember from other readings.
- By 15 months, babies who have been read to can tell which is the front and which is the back of the book and if the book is right side up. They begin to identify and name characters in the book. They read along with the adult, verbalizing a great deal. They show book preferences at this age when they have been read to.
- From 15 months to six-year- olds, parents, grandparents, babysitters, and older siblings should read to younger children. Reading should become a ritual, done at the same time and in the same place each day. Bedtime is a favorite time, and bedtime stories are a good reading habit to establish. Reading before children go to sleep has a calming effect; it establishes a routine for the children, who will eventually read by themselves before going to bed.
- Six to eight-year-olds will begin to read themselves. This is a crucial time to continue to support and guide them in the activity of reading. When children are able to read, the bedtime story tradition can change to the child reading to the family member. Or it can continue with the families reading books above the reading level of the child. Children of this age are often interested in reading books with chapters (also known as “chapter books”), but many are not yet ready to read them themselves. Family members can take this opportunity to share more grown-up pieces of literature with these youngsters to encourage their interest.
- Eight-year-olds and beyond should continue to be read to or the child can read to a family member. The adult and child can take turns reading, which is an enjoyable experience for both parties involved. Children of this age need continued support and guidance during reading. The reading material can consist of a typical narrative story or informational books; an appropriate newspaper or magazine article is a good idea now and then, too.
Spontaneous readings are encouraged, as well, and if a family member finds it easier to read at different times of the day other than bedtime, it is certainly more desirable to do this than not to read at all. Keep in mind that when reading to babies, it requires that the infant be held in the family member’s arms. When the youngster is able to sit up alone, family members and the child should be close to each other, preferably with the child on the adult’s lap or right next to one another. The book with its pictures and print must be visible to the child. Children should be considered active participants in the story reading; their comments and questions should be encouraged and acknowledged.
I hope you have found this third letter to be helpful and informative. The next, and final letter in the series for this school year, will focus on summer reading strategies and ideas.
Until next time,
Lori Ladiges, ESAA Interventionist