Homeschool moms have their hands full! The good news is it is easy to introduce your littlest ones, your toddlers and preschoolers to literacy concepts in just minutes and moments a day by conversing and observing with them.
Why Literacy in the Home?
My 2-year-old was video chatting with her grandma when she noticed something behind her.
“Why are there letters on the fridge?” she asked.
Sure enough, there was a small print label on the fridge. They were numbers, not letters. But since Strawberry was just learning about letters and learning basic concepts of print, she knew it meant something. It was not something any of the adults noticed. But to one new to the concept of print, it was significant.
At the time we were chatting with Grandma and Grandpa, they were living in Nicaragua, working with third-world non-literacy people. One woman they worked with had no concept of literacy. She did not understand that letters represented sounds, that letters were conveying meaning. The symbols on the fridge would have been nothing to her. She would not have noticed.
The two-year-old child, exposed to print culture, was more literate than the 40-year-old woman. She had been nurtured in literacy.
Encouraging Literacy at Home
We live in a first world country. As such, we live in a print-rich culture. We have books and magazines strewn around our homes. We have labels on appliances and clothing. We have numbers on our houses and names on our mailboxes. Exposing our toddlers and preschoolers to literacy is simple in that kind of environment.
Other than reading picture books to our kids, here are some additional tips for encouraging literacy inside the home.
- Read labels on the mail. Point to your name as you say who it is for.
- Find the address on the mail labels. Find the similar number on your home.
- Notice the labels on the tags of clothing and draw attention to it when getting dressed.
- Name things as you get them out of the fridge for meals. Similarly, use the correct words for items, such as body parts and vehicles. Learning vocabulary is an important part of literacy too. (A teacher friend once had a severely underprivileged kindergartner in her class who did not have a word for “airplane.”) One can’t read if they do not have a vocabulary.
- Label toy or organization bins with letters as well as pictures. Point out the labels as you get out and put away toys to help reinforce the relationship between words and the names of things.
Some of these ideas seem obvious. Of course our kids know our names! Of course we’ll talk to them as we go about our days! And yet, in the business of life, it is easy to get distracted and forget to emphasize literacy for the youngest of our kids. These simple tips will help nurture their growing literary minds.