Without question, one of the best ways to help your child develop early literacy skills is by reading with/to them and by giving them access to reading materials around the house, in the car, and in public spaces. But did you know that there are other activities, besides explicitly reading to them, that can help them become strong readers? Let’s explore some together!

1. Model the importance of writing to help develop literacy skills.

Let your child observe you writing grocery lists, holiday cards, reminders for errands, and using a calendar. Also, you can write notes and put them in your son or daughter’s lunch box or backpack. This allows you to role model that print carries meaning, which will also strengthen letter and word recognition. Your child will want to imitate you by writing lists and stories, even if this begins as scribbles. You can also offer to dictate your child’s stories and descriptions of art work, which teaches that we can capture one’s thoughts through writing. It is important for children to understand that our thoughts and feelings can be permanently documented through print.

2. Talk to your infants and toddlers frequently.

Talk about the schedule for the day, changes in routine, and narrate the steps for simple household tasks. When they play, you can be a sportscaster, narrating their actions.

The more often they hear rich and varied language, the easier it will be for them to build their own oral vocabulary. Studies have shown that oral language skills, speaking, and listening are predictors of later decoding and reading comprehension. 

For young children, encourage them to use language by having them tell YOU a story. For example, when you pick them up from school, ask them to tell you about their day and be patient even if they take a longer time to finish their sentences.

You can build vocabulary by using more $50 words with your children in daily conversation. The $50 words are high frequency words for “mature language users” that go beyond common, everyday words like “ball” and “run”. Instead of “That vase will break!” you can say, “That vase is fragile. Be cautious handling that vase!” Other examples of $50 words toddlers can easily understand are cooperate, commotion, frustrate, nuisance, and hazard. As an added bonus, point out when words have more than one meaning. For example, the word “jam” could refer to a traffic jam, peanut butter and jam, or to jam out to music. This fosters cognitive flexibility and richer language use.

Cooking offers a variety of opportunities to enrich your child’s cognitive development.

Besides just being fun and resulting in delicious food to eat, cooking offers a variety of opportunities to enrich your child’s cognitive development. If your child is not an enthusiastic reader, cooking may be a fun way to get your child excited about reading. They can spend quality time cooking with family and friends while simultaneously learning to follow a recipe. You can even encourage them to experiment with ingredients and write their very own cookbook!

When you cook together, engage your child in sorting and categorizing items based on color, texture, function, shape, or size. Sorting and categorizing are important because they help your child understand and classify his or her world, learn the language of classification (big and little refer to size, hard and soft refer to texture or to how something feels), and understand how things connect. Your child may even surprise you with unusual connections you may not have thought of!

Cooking also teaches your child valuable sequencing skills, such as using terms like “first”, “next”, “last.” Sequencing is important to understand for the development of internal organization and understanding story structure. Cooking with your child is another opportunity to grow his or her vocabulary and classify objects (carrots are a type of vegetable, honey is a type of sweetener) and understand how items are similar and different. For example, you can explore how flour and baking soda are both white and powdery or that sugar is a dry ingredient and vinegar is a wet ingredient.

As an added bonus, when cooking, your child learns foundational math skills such as adding, subtracting, and using fractions. He or she also gets a chance to improve fine motor skills when stirring, cracking eggs, and measuring.

Finally, remember rich, varied vocabulary and $50 words as your child experiences the meaning of words first-hand. For example, they may touch a raw egg and come to experience and understand the meaning of “slimy, slippery, and ooze.”

All of the above suggestions can be easily incorporated into your daily routine and best of all, are fun!

To learn about additional ways on how you can help your little one check out Part 1 of this blog featured on The Best of Burlington’s website!

Peggy Price, M.Ed., Fellow/AOGPE

Director of the Orton-Gillingham Institute at the Stern Center

Peggy Price, M.Ed., Fellow/AOGPE, is the Director of the Orton-Gillingham Institute at the Stern Center. She provides training at the Orton-Gillingham (OG) Classroom Educator, Associate, and Certified levels in addition to a broad array of OG workshops and webinars. Peggy oversees a talented team of OG Fellows across the east coast who assist her with providing in-depth mentorship to educators seeking OG certification. She regularly speaks at national conferences about the OG Approach, has been featured in podcasts, and is an editor for the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators newsletter. She has taught Orton-Gillingham to students from ages 5-44, and loves witnessing her students (and now the educators she mentors) blossom as they learn the structure of the English language. Price teaches 6-7 graduate courses a year in partnership with Castleton University.

Prior to moving to Vermont, Price taught at Trident Academy, a private school for students with language-based learning disabilities, in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Price also taught at the Coralwood School in Dekalb County, Georgia, where she also served on the board of the Coralwood Foundation. During graduate school, Price held a research assistantship with Project Healthy Grandparents in Atlanta to provide early intervention services for low-income children at risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Price holds a master’s degree in Special Education: Early Childhood Multiple and Severe Disabilities from Georgia State University. Her bachelor’s degree is in Psychology, with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis from Binghamton University. Her favorite quote is from Dr. Miriam Balmuth, “What we need instead of one well-grounded, teacher-proof method is a universe of well-grounded, method-proof teachers.” Peggy firmly believes every child has the right to become a literate member of our society, and every teacher deserves the knowledge and training to realize that promise.

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