Family Tips for Literacy at Home
The Early Learning Center at Kaune’s classrooms revolve around the idea that children learn best when skills are embedded into meaningful experiences. For this reason, our school curriculum is based on play, projects, and studies which build on students’ interests. You can use the same principle at home to continue supporting your child’s learning and development. Learning experiences don’t have to be complicated. In fact, the best ones are integrated into a child’s daily life. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started.
Vocabulary and Communication
Children love to learn “big” words. A varied vocabulary and the ability to communicate ideas clearly are important skills for preschool aged children to work on.
- Ask your child lots of questions
Ask them to tell you about what they are drawing, what they are playing, or ask them to make up a story for you. Encourage your child to talk and share their ideas openly. See our guide sheet on Asking Children Questions for more ideas on the best kinds of ideas to ask.
- Talk to your child throughout the day.
Tell them what you are doing and how you are doing it. Every day experiences are great opportunities to chat. Explain the steps you take to wash the dishes, fold laundry, or feed the dogs. Tell them how your day is going. Tell them about a favorite memory.
- Introduce new words to your child, especially related to their interests
Is your child excited about cars? Introduce words like “engine”, “automobile”, “vehicles”, “transportation”, “windshield”, and “steering wheel.” Maybe they have been watching birds outside. You can introduce words such as “beak”, “hatch”, “talons, and “habitat”. Encourage your child to use these new words as the draw, talk, and play.
Reading and Story Comprehension
One of the best things you can do with your child is to read with them. Reading helps develop so many different skills including vocabulary development, sequencing, letter-sound connections, how words and print work, and more.
- Read to your child every day
Read from a variety of sources. This helps your child see that print and reading is used in so many different places, emphasizing the importance of reading. Read labels on food packaging, magazines, newspapers, instruction manuals, recipes and anything else you have around the home. And of course, read lots and lots of books with your child. Aim to read for a minimum of 15 minutes a day.
- Reflect on the stories you read
When children can personally connect with a book, it will have a much stronger impact on their learning. By encouraging your child to think further about the stories you read, you can help them relate to what they just read. Ask them questions about the story: What was their favorite part and why? What would they do if they were in a similar situation as the characters in the story? Why do they think the characters did what they did? Did the story remind them of something? Is there a story they would like to tell now?
- Plan activities to extend on the story
You can go even further by setting up an activity related to the books you read. Ask your child to draw their answer to some of the questions above. If you read a book about flying in an airplane, ask your child to build an airplane out of recycled materials at home. A story about starting a garden? Plant some seeds and document the changes every day. A story about cooking? Play chef and restaurant or cook a recipe together.
During the preschool years, children are exploring the concept of writing—what it looks like, how it works, and what it can be used for. They are just learning that the spoken word can be written and that writing conveys a message to the reader. They are learning that print is most often read from left to right and top to bottom. They are also learning that letters are symbols, and each symbol represents a different sound. You can help your child learn these concepts by using the following ideas.
- Find print around you
Point out letters and writing around the house and other places you go. Explain what signs say and what they mean. You can help your child see that print is everywhere—food packaging, appliances, street signs, phones, computers, menus and more. Use your finger to trace print from left to right and top to bottom. Ask your child to go on a letter hunt and find all the letters in their name around the house. Then try to find the letters in their friends’ names, parents’ names, or other meaningful words.
- Involve your child in everyday writing activities
We write for many different purposes throughout the day by making grocery lists, sending text messages, writing reminders to ourselves, and more. Involve your child in these by reading them what you write, encouraging them to make their own messages/lists, or having them help you with some of the writing.
- Make labels and signs
Encourage your child to make labels and signs that are meaningful for them. Perhaps they want to label “Johnny’s bed” or make a sign warning others: “Don’t touch”. They may want to make a “finish line” for their race cars or create an “Open / Closed” sign for their store. Children’s writing often starts as scribbles before progressing to lines, circles and other letter-like shapes, and finally into clear letters. Know that wherever your child is along that continuum is perfectly normal for a preschool aged child. Acknowledge their efforts and urge them to continue practicing. It is also not uncommon for children to move back and forth along the different stages of writing.
- Letter Sounds
Most children are just beginning to show an interest in letter-sound connections during the preschool years. You can encourage this interest by playing with the sounds of language. Sing songs and play silly tongue twisters. Play with words that start with the same letter: “Lazy lizards like licking lollipops!” As well as rhyming words: “The fat cat sat on a hat!” Break words down into their syllables: “Ba-na-na”, “but-ter-fly.” Go on letter-sound hunts: “Let’s find things around the house that start with the sound sssss.”