Clayton Early Learning
1Feb/15Off

4 Everyday Activities that Promote Early Language and Literacy Development in Young Children

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Are you interested in supporting young children's language and literacy development, but you're not quite sure where to start? We're kicking off 'I Love to Read Month' by sharing four easy ways to transform everyday experiences and routines into opportunities for young children to enhance their vocabularies, strengthen children's early phonemic awareness and a develop a life-long love of reading.  

 1. Conversations with Kids

Learning how to have a conversation is a lot of work for young children.  Even after little ones have developed a larger vocabulary to help them communicate their needs or ideas, children may struggle with grasping the ‘conversational rules’ that adults take for granted; like turn-taking and maintaining eye contact with the person that you’re talking to. 

When parents are talking to babies, try modeling conversational rules by pausing after posing a question to the infant.  Even though the baby may not respond at first, infants will begin participating in conversation with caregivers by cooing back when the adult pauses between questions or comments to the baby.

If an older toddler or preschool-aged child isn’t engaging with adult attempts to converse, environmental factors may be the issue. Try asking questions or making comments and observations when there are fewer distractions, like toys, TV or music. Not sure where to start? When the radio is turned down or turned off, car rides are a great time to capture a child’s attention, model rules of conversation and promote vocabulary development all at once!

2. Point Out Print

Whether at home, in transit, at the grocery store or the playground, there are written words everywhere that adults can point out for young children.  By reading aloud the messages on street signs, store windows and billboards, adults are supporting children’s familiarity with commonly reoccurring words and early grasp of phonics. 

When pointing out the words and reading them aloud, adults can emphasize letter sounds, which will encourage infants and toddlers to try making that sound while also supporting preschoolers in developing letter-sound recognition.

3. Story Time

Most adults are aware that reading to preschool-aged children is a great way to support a child’s journey to becoming an independent reader. What isn’t as widely known is that infants and toddlers stand to benefit just as much from this activity! Infants and toddlers develop vocabulary more easily when they are frequently read to, even if the youngster isn’t developmentally ready to follow the storyline.  In fact, rather than reading text to infants and young toddlers, adults can use comments and questions about the pictures on each page to promote vocabulary and early phonemic development.  Technically referred to as ‘Dialogic Reading,’ this strategy not only enhances the child and caregiver relationship, but produces research-proven outcomes for early learners.  To read more about dialogic reading for young children, use this link to one of our previous blog posts about Dialogic Reading:  http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/?p=943

 

 4. Set the Example

Think that only a professionally trained teacher can support early literacy and language development for young children? Think again! Parents and primary caregivers are the most important and influential teacher that a child will ever have.  As early as infancy, children are keen observers of adult behaviors and will try to imitate the behaviors that are modeled for them by the important adults in their lives. Later, as children continue to develop cognitively and emotionally, even their personal beliefs and priorities are influenced by adult family members.

The good news is that the easiest way to help a child become an avid reader is for adults to simply show children how to enjoy reading!  A child will more easily develop an interest in reading and an appreciation for books when the child observes their primary caregiver engaging in reading activities and hears the adult discussing books.  Further, when adults prioritize daily reading with children, the youngster develops a value for literacy and learning, in general; a value that follows the youngest students as they become life-long learners.

Do these tips sound easy to implement or do you have additional strategies to share with parents and caregivers? We want to hear your ideas for promoting early language and literacy development as well as any challenges that you’ve encountered as a parent or teacher who is supporting language and literacy with young children. Please share your experiences below!

17Sep/14Off

Simple Strategies to Support your Student’s Success this School Year

By

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Candice Leary-Humphrey

Whether this school year marks a child’s first experience in preschool or a student’s final year before graduation, families may be wondering how they can support their learner through a successful school year.  Though many parents and caregivers struggle to balance the demands of home, work schedules, school events and their child’s activities, there are several ways to make the school year more manageable for everyone while providing students and teachers with the support they need to realize every student’s maximum potential this academic season.

Mark Your Calendar

Most school or district websites offer a calendar of important dates that occur throughout the school year.  By marking family calendars with the dates of school holidays and closures, parent meetings, back-to-school nights, etc., adults will have more time to plan for these events so that families can avoid stressful last-minute arrangements.  In addition, engaging children in the process of using a calendar to plan for the school year provides parents with an opportunity to model positive time management skills and habits.  Children who observe and learn effective strategies for planning are receiving a valuable lesson in stress management and how to prioritize tasks.  This habit not only promotes family well-being, but also provides students with effective personal/social skills that they will continue to use as successful adults!

Stock up on Supplies for School and Home Before you Run Out

Though it may already feel as though families are asked to purchase an exhaustive list of supplies at the beginning of each school year, children seem to run low on or lose many of the most basic supplies long before the year is through.  By keeping extra pencils, pens, paper and folders at home, parents and caregivers can ensure that students have the tools that they will need to complete assignments without adults needing to run to the store every couple of months.  Another perk to stocking up in the fall is that prices are often lower at the beginning of the school year when large chain stores offer special back-to-school sales.  Another great place to find school supply bargains is the local dollar store.  This is an economical way to keep spare supplies handy for those nights when parents hear, “I think I left my calculator at the library… and I can’t finish my homework without it!”

Share Knowledge of your Child with Teachers

No one knows a student the way that the child’s family does. Parents of younger children often recognize specific behaviors that tell caregivers when the child is tired, overwhelmed, hungry or scared.  Families with older students are likely to know just when their child is bored, putting forth their best effort or maybe could use some extra help. Even though teachers want to learn as much as they can about each student’s interests and strengths, this task can be very difficult in a classroom of 20 pupils who are becoming acclimated to the classroom environment.  When families share unique insights with teachers, educators are given the valuable information needed to individualize their approach to working with each student.  Even families who are short on time to schedule a one-on-one with their student’s teachers can utilize this support strategy by scheduling a phone conference or connecting via email.  Parents of preschool-aged children have an opportunity to communicate with teachers regularly by planning to spend a few minutes in the child’s classroom each morning at drop-off.  Not only will this ensure that parents can provide valuable updates about the child and can inquire about what’s happening in the classroom, this will also support the child’s confidence so that the student can begin each day feeling secure and ready to learn. By sharing the family’s expertise about their student’s strengths, learning style, experiences and personality, parents and caregivers are preparing teachers to plan more intentionally so that the educator can better meet each student’s classroom needs. This is how a positive family-school relationship is established through communication and collaboration.

Discuss and Establish a Family Vision for a Successful School Year

Everyone has a varying definition or vision of what success means to them.  For some families, a successful school year may mean that the student’s grades increase, while another family hopes that their child will make more friends or increase participation in extra-curricular activities.  By discussing each family member’s goals for the year, the family as a whole can begin to share a vision for success and make plans for how the whole family will support that vision throughout the school year.  If the vision is to increase homework completion rates or grades, adults can support this goal by providing the learner with a quiet place to do their homework.  Younger siblings can pitch in too by committing to respect their sibling’s need for quiet by planning to play in a different room whenever their brother or sister is engaged in school work.  For younger children, a successful school year may require that the child gets into a consistent bedtime routine so that they are prepared to learn by receiving plenty of sleep each night.  The family can support by participating in an evening routine that will ensure enough time for the young student to transition through dinner, play time and reading before bed.  After establishing a vision for success and the steps needed to accomplish the vision, the family can revisit their goals periodically by opening up a discussion about what the family is currently doing to support their shared vision or any steps that are needed to get back on the track to a successful school year.

Clayton Wants to Know

  • How did your family prepare for the school year? Are there any strategies that have made a positive impact for your family or are there strategies that you would like to adopt?
  • Was your child anxious or excited about the upcoming school year? Were your student’s feelings about starting school similar or different from your own as a parent or caregiver?
  • What do you wish that your child’s teachers had known about your student before the first day of school?