metro mama

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Early Literacy (or, How to Nurture Your Young Shakespeare)

I attended a seminar from Toronto Early Literacy Specialists last week and thought I would share what I learned. A lot of it is common sense but I’ll pass it along anyway.

First of all, and we all know this, have many books in the home and read, read, read. Don’t just read to your child--set a good example and let your child see you reading (no problem for we literary mamas). Have some of their books on a low shelf they can reach so they can make their own selections.

Second, talk to your child a lot. No shit. Get down to their level, talk slowly, and let them see your face. Give your child lots of time to answer questions. We often only wait 2 seconds then answer for them. Give them around 10 seconds to reply.

They recommend the length of your sentences be just one more word than your child’s. For example, to my 13-month-old, I should speak one word at a time (slowly, at eye level).

I’ll take this advice with a grain of salt. I think it’s important to talk a lot, using full sentences that are grammatically correct. But I also try to teach individual words using this method. It’s worked for dog, cat, and duck.

Use your library! Visit often and browse the books. Talk to your children’s librarian. Get recommended reading lists from library web sites.

The age of 9 months – 18 months is critical for language development.

The age of 18 months – 2 is a period of explosion of language.

Take every opportunity to talk to your child. Talk about what you’re doing during meals, getting dressed, bath time, etc.

Use things like logos, street signs, and menus as opportunity for reading. They recommended a book called “City Signs”.

Tell stories. Make them up or tell them stories about yourself or family members when you were young. Recap the day, recent trips, and events. Tell simple folk tales. Use voices. Have them tell stories back to you. They recommended Sally Jaegar as a great source of info on storytelling.

Children often learn to write their name first, usually around age 3.

A good suggestion, I thought, was the use of a word box. Have your child make their own greeting cards. Have a box of words they use often (such as happy, birthday, mom, dad, their name). They can use the words to copy.

Give them lots of different writing tools.

When they’re working on art, refrain from direction! Don’t tell them the tail has to go here, they eyes should be there--let them be creative.

From around age 3, do junk art. Have them build sculptures with junk and masking tape. Take pictures of it so they’ll willingly dismantle their creations.

From around age 3.5, label things in the home. Stick to one room such as the kitchen. Put the labels at their eye-level. Leave them up for around 6 weeks, then move them around.

Make books. For example, use a food flyer. Cut out pictures and label them. Use family photos to make a book about family.

Subscribe to magazines like Owl and Chickadee.

Limit access to computers and TV, lest your child be in the sorry position of finding the real world boring in comparison to the virtual world. I agree with this. I want to research this topic and write about it someday.

On Foreign Languages

They recommend that for a child under 3, stick to one person for one language. So, if mama speaks French to babe, she should speak exclusively French. Papa should speak exclusively English. You could also possibly speak the second language at an exclusive location (mama speaks English at home and French at Grandma’s house).

For new immigrants, they recommend they speak their first language. They say it’s a common expense for parents to try to speak English at home to help the child; however, it is a broken English. So they child isn’t getting a strong example of any language.

On Phonics

I believe in teaching phonics. The speaker agreed, but said it can be taught through songs and rhymes. By age 3 they can pick out rhyming words. No need for boring, strictly-phonics instruction

That’s all. Let me know your thoughts, wise ladies! Any theories? Any strategies that have worked for you?



Blogger Gabriella said...

That was great to read. My daughter is 10mths and so far recognizes a few words when I read to her, she also has started handing me books and sits there waiting for me to read. It is a wonderful site. Also I've been talking to her nonstop since she was born. Thanks for the info!

7:06 PM  
Blogger penelopeto said...

don't forget your roots mm! - add the importance of music and song to that list. music is thought to be a child's first language - rhythm, cadence and repetition being the 'stepping stones' to early literacy. i've also heard of the correlation between early movement and literacy; all the more reason to pump it up. i'm sure bumblebee's earliest correalations between words and things were thanks to our vast repertoire of silly songs, including 'toes, toes', 'mischa faye hooray' and 'horsey says neigh'.
i'm not in agreement about the one parent/one language thing - my parents' and grandparents' speech was always peppered with yiddish, and that is such an important part of who i am - how i think. also, imagine the stress if one parent can't understand the other. me and c. sometimes have that problem, even though we are both speaking english!
i think, talk, talk, talk to your babe like the real person they are, using real words and you can't go wrong.

8:39 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Well said, Penelope.

10:17 PM  
Blogger hautemama said...

great advice..thanks for sharing and for stopping by my blog!

7:16 AM  
Blogger petite gourmand said...

great advice.
we keep signing up for the "story time" at our local library, but it's always full and it's a lottery system. bit of a drag.
but they also have story readings at Mables Fables on mount pleasant,
the flying dragon on bayview and Indigo/chapters have lots of kids readings as well.
the unfortunate thing is that you end up spending a fortune on so many new books...
I hope we win the library lottery soon!
(and the 649 would be nice too)

12:57 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

I am not particularily literary, but I have always enjoyed reading to and with the girls. Sometimes I find it hard to make time in my day to read to my little one, so sad but true, my big girl got so much more of me.

I think if you show them a healthy love and appreciation of reading...even if it is comics (yes.... I said it!), they will learn to take that time, getting what they need from it...


9:04 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

Oh ya, and both of my girls talk essentially non stop At The Same Time, from the time they get up, to the time they go to girls like to communicate, and although it sometimes makes me nuts, I embrace it...again, ac

9:06 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

I agree with the foreign language theory. My parents are both foreign language teachers and they have said the same thing. They're trying to speak to my son in Italian so that he gets an ear for it.

2:37 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

you left the invitation to Hugh's 2nd bday at the event... if you need the info, email me [] and I'll send it to you.

9:20 AM  
Blogger bubandpie said...

I tried to comment on this post this morning from my BFF's house, and Blogger woudn't let me. Turns out that's because I have no actual idea of what my Blogger username is.

Lots of good advice here - some of it is familiar to me from a speech therapy course I just went through for the Bub. That course really emphasized the importance of waiting (longer than 10 seconds if necessary), and speaking to the child at one level of complexity above the child's level, so not necessarily just one more word, but one more part of speech: start with nouns, then add verbs, then adjectives, then prepositional phrases, etc.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Phew, thanks for this. Glad to know I'm doing one thing right with my 12 mo these days.

9:56 PM  
Blogger something blue said...

Have you ever noticed that parents of young children often repeat what their child says so that other adults can understand them? I feel I have to stop myself from doing this so that my daughter learns how to express herself to others and gains her own confidence.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Naomi said...

Very interesting! We do a lot of these things instinctively with The Happy Boy, which, apparently, is good.

It has been a long road, but The Nanny now reads with him every day, which helps too.

We have little songs that go with things. For 6 months we sang the "mummy mummy mummy" song. The Happy Boy's first word? Mama. I think there is a correlation. I've also taught him sign language, and now I can show him a sign and have him repeat it for me. REALLY cool!

We still have a long way to go, though!

6:32 AM  

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