“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ― Emilie Buchwald
This sentiment, often painted on library walls, posted in classrooms and quoted by countless early childhood educators, cannot be stated enough. For it is in the simple act of reading together that parents become their children’s first teachers. Research strongly supports that children from literacy-rich homes have a more robust vocabulary and increased future success as students than those children who are not. Fortunately, there are fun ways to create a literacy-rich environment in your home or neighborhood at no cost.
How to make literacy part of your family’s routine, for free:
- Talk to your child: Talk to your child about your day, throughout the day, from the day your child is born. Describe the things you see around you when you are taking a walk. Comment on the size and color of the produce you select at the grocery store. Even diaper changes provide wonderful opportunities for your child to hear your voice and words.
- Visit the Library: Library visits are rich opportunities for you and your child to access a variety of quality children’s literature. Talk to the children’s librarian about the activities your local library has to offer. Many libraries offer free story times, and playgroups, as well as lap sits and story walks. Lap sits are opportunities for parents to hold their babies on their lap while a librarian models interactive reading, finger plays and songs. Story walks can happen inside or out, as families walk together from station to station, reading two pages of a book together at each stop. Libraries also often offer special free events such as storytellers and puppet shows.
- Sing songs and rhymes: Sing simple songs and nursery rhymes to your child. Babies and young children love to be sung to—no voice lessons required! It is a great way of letting your child hear the rhythm and pattern of speech.
- Read, read, read: Reading aloud is one of the most effective ways to reinforce language skills that support your child’s understanding about language, literacy and the world around him. It is something that can be easily worked into a family’s daily routine. Bedtime is a perfect time for parents and children to wind down together from the day with a book. It reinforces the role of parents as their child’s first teachers. Moreover, it is a bonding, loving act that creates a sense of trust and enjoyment that will hopefully grow into a lifetime love of literature.
Maureen Manning is a 2014 Mass Literacy Champion, and the Director of Family and Community Engagement in Wareham, MA. Learn more about Maureen here.