Supporting your child’s early reading habits and fluency
By Maria Montemayor
Posted on April 19, 2021
As their first teachers, parents can help nurture their children’s literacy skills (like their awareness of the sound of language and their vocabulary) from a young age. When kids have an early start in developing literacy skills, they will be able to succeed in school, make good decisions, solve problems, and socialize with others. Through doing activities with your children—like reading, singing, playing, and speaking—you can support and encourage their love of reading and fluency in communicating.
From the time your children are born, you can start reading aloud to them. Reading to them deepens the bond that you have with them and helps promote healthy brain development. When you read to them, pause and point out the different letters, words, and pictures in the book. Research shows that “reading to children from age four-to-five every day has a significant positive effect on their reading and cognitive skills.” You can also visit your local library to borrow books or register your kids for free reading programs. As they get older, you can support them in borrowing or purchasing picture books, comics, graphic novels, magazines, and audiobooks.
Another way to support the development of your children’s language and literacy skills is by singing to and along with your child. Singing to your babies decreases the risk of language problems later on in life and introduces them to new words. Even if you don’t sing well, your babies will be pleased with your singing. Rhymes in songs help kids understand patterns in language. Songs strengthen memory skills and help connect children to their cultural identity. A folk song or lullaby can introduce your family to your traditions and heritage. Familiar songs can also bring a sense of comfort and safety to your child.
Playing makes learning fun for kids. When your kids are young, you can provide them with toys like alphabet blocks and puppets to encourage their literacy. You can also use puppets and stuffed animals to create characters and stories that they can interact with. You can also play rhyming and rhythm games with your children, such as tongue twisters and naming a word that rhymes with an object that you see. You can play these games when you take a walk, when you’re on the train, or when you’re at the mall. As your kids get older, you can introduce them to word games that promote literacy like Scrabble and Bananagrams.
Last but not least, talk to your children. Share appropriate thoughts and feelings with them. For example, tell them when you feel happy, excited, or hopeful. Point out items in the house and tell them about the things that you are going to do. For example, when you are about to eat, point to and name the utensils and dishes that you’ll use to eat. Ask them questions about their likes and dislikes. Ask their opinion on different events, items, information, and experiences. Get your kids to put themselves in other people’s shoes by asking them about other people’s thoughts and feelings. For example, when your husband is cooking, ask your children what they think he’s thinking about. Encourage your child to make predictions on various matters. For example, if you are playing a game, ask them to predict who will win the game, and if you are telling them a story, ask them to tell you what they think will happen next in the story.
Supporting bilingual and multilingual children
If you want your children to be bilingual or multilingual, your spouse could speak in one language while you speak in another whenever you are trying any of the above-mentioned activities with your kids. You can also introduce them to books and TV shows in the target language. You can ask their babysitters or nannies to speak to them primarily in the target language too. Another way you can promote a second language is by enrolling them in language classes. Finally, you can take your children to places where the second language is spoken (like restaurants, places of worship, and cultural centres) for further practice. The Newcomer also has an article on how to help kids maintain their language while learning English.