Laying the Foundation for Literacy - DuPage Children's Museum

Laying the Foundation for Literacy

August 18, 2016

This weekend DCM will once again join the Naperville Public Library on the Riverwalk for one of my favorite summer programs, the StoryWalk. Early literacy, much like all other areas of development, is significantly influenced not only by a child’s earliest experience and interactions with materials, but almost more importantly by the interactions with the significant adults in their lives.

Having diverse and interesting experiences with your child that involve books, reading, and stimulate conversation, such as the StoryWalk, support the development of critical skills that lay the foundation for reading and writing later in life.

The research is clear that talking to children from birth plays a critical role in the development of vocabulary and communication skills later in life.

In a similar vein, children who are read to early and often are supported in developing a positive association with books and reading and thereby have a strong foundation for the development of early literacy skills. Correspondingly, early literacy skills have been shown to have a significant impact on a child’s school readiness and ultimately on their ability to be successful in life. In fact, there is extensive research that shows that children who have been read to beginning in infancy, have larger vocabularies, and here’s the big one, better math skills when they start kindergarten.

Tell Me a Story

Story telling is an excellent way to engage your child at home and build early literacy skills in a developmentally appropriate way. Stories, for many of us, are the way that our brains store, organize, and recall information, and tie content together. Storytelling is an excellent way to build language, literacy, and other important cognitive capacities. In fact, as early as two years of age, “children begin to tell stories as a way to organize their experiences hold on to their memories and understand their culture” (Many Paths to Literacy: Language, Literature, and Learning in the Primary Classroom by Rebecca Novick).

Very young children enjoy hearing and participating in stories related to everyday events. You can support your child’s growing storytelling abilities through everyday conversations about past and future events. Try turning an experience your child had into a story and then encourage her to tell you a story. Some children will be very eager and confident in their storytelling abilities while others will need some prompting. The challenge for you will be providing the right amount of support for your child without taking away his ownership of the story. If your child is having a hard time starting, you can try using visual prompts such as photographs or pictures from magazines. You can ask, “Who is going to be in your story?” or “Where does your story start?” If the story seems to be stalling, try asking “Does anything else happen?” or “what did x [a character] do then?” or “How did you feel when that happened?” Just remember, this is your child’s story. The questions are intended simply to stimulate the thought process, so the fewer the better. There is a good chance, especially with younger children, that their stories will be only a few lines, or words even, but they are still their stories; and if you keep encouraging them to share their stories with you, you will eventually see the stories grow longer and become increasingly complex.