As a child, I was a voracious reader. I read everything I could get my hands on. By age ten, I’d devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy and had just begun reading the first Harry Potter book. A child of a single working parent, I read when I was bored, when there were no neighborhood kids to play with, or when it was too cold to play outside.
My strong reading skills have made me very privileged. Most adults in America read at an eighth-grade reading level or below. Another twenty percent read at the fifth-grade level or below. Reading at a young age made me comfortable and confident with literature. I have no problem reading health-care related materials (usually written at the tenth-grade level). I can skim through job applications and descriptions quickly, which makes it easier for me to find and obtain employment. I can research my basic legal rights to understand if one has been broken and I can read well enough to find assistance with almost any need I have.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
A solid reading foundation is essential to a good life, and it’s important to get your children reading from a young age. As soon as I learned how to talk, my mother began playing books on tape for me whenever we were in the car. This taught me a lot about pronunciation and how to infer a word’s meaning based on context clues.
What else can you do to build your child’s literacy at an early age?
- Talk to your kids. Even if they are too young to understand what you’re saying, have conversations with them. Use big words. Ge them used to hearing your voice, your inflection, and the words you choose.
- As your child gets older, have them tell you bedtime stories! As a nanny, this was one of my favorite things to do. I loved hearing the stories the boys would make up. At first, they found it difficult. Creating stories uses different neural pathways in the brain than listening to stories. Eventually, they got used to it and loved getting creative (and sometimes silly).
- Pick a “word of the day” and spell it out with refrigerator magnets after reviewing the word with your child. One word per day equals seven new words a week that your child is getting to see and practice.
Creating a culture of literacy will encourage your children to pick up books and continue expanding their vocabularies. Creating strong, young readers will build a generation of future readers, who are confident and secure in their ability to navigate books, instructions, and many other things.