Literacy skills cover the ability to read and write words, sentences and language. Since such skills are not just the basis of effective communication but also determine future academic progress, it is important to support literacy skills from early childhood.
As educators here a few ways you can develop and enhance literacy in children.
Engage your young learners in lively conversations as much as possible. Ask questions, pay compliments and invite them to play or activities. Complement your phrases and sentences with the right body language to show interest and support. However keep in mind that children may respond differently to your friendly overtures like some being more eager than others to describe what they had for breakfast. That’s ok as you can get them to engage with you with the help of some language.
Read, read, read
Making reading a part of daily learning routine is one of the best ways to nurture literacy skills in children. You can set aside a particular time in the day to do this even as you include variations with fiction, rhymes, non-fiction, magazines etc. Read aloud stories with enough pauses to ask questions or invite opinions. Crack a joke or recall an anecdote to make it a fun activity. Look for ways you can relate a character or setting to the real lives of your young listeners. Once they get comfortable with books, incorporate simple reading exercises which could range from repeating after you to taking turns to read from the same book for older kids. Eventually have the learners form their own reading circle and encourage them to come up with reading activities on their own.
Reading aloud is one of the best kept secrets. It has tremendous impact on the child’s mind and helps them gain a good start on their education and learning. It also supports children to become emergent readers through the use of repetitive listening and using familiar words while reading.
For more information: Importance Of Reading To Children
Rhyme and rhythm
One of the best ways to enjoy sounds and words is through songs and rhymes. A string of words which sound similar can not only get kids to explore phonetics but even lead to extension vocabulary exercises. For example start a turn-taking game by saying aloud cat and then invite each learner to come up with a similar sounding word. Don’t forget to have fun with nonsense words like ‘zat’, ‘dat’ as much as explaining those like ‘vat’. Then there is music and rhythm which can be used to introduce new lexical groups like foods, dress, emotions, colours, weather and so on.
Here are a variety of rhymes and song posters to use with children - they can be printed out and shared during group time: Songs and Rhymes Posters
For lyrics on songs and rhymes to sing: Songs and Rhymes
Make a writing space
Setting aside a space dedicated to reading and writing is another fun way to engage children in these activities. Designate a reading station where your learners can get comfy with sturdy, colourful books. Ensure there are enough aids like crayons, glue sticks, scissors, blank pages, stickers and play dough to get them working with their fingers which will enhance both gross and fine motor skills needed for writing. Initially you may use guided writing activities and once the kids get the hang of things, let them work in small groups to explore more with words and images.
The language and communication experiences that children have before they start school form multiple and powerful brain connections. These connections are used for language, thinking and understanding. Without experiences like talking, singing and reading, the brain doesn’t develop this rich network of connections. It's important as Educators we use this opportunity to encourage literacy development within the learning environment.