Literacy starts at an early age
FRISCO – Not one of the children in Vicki Donaldson’s classroom knows how to read. But that doesn’t keep her from stocking the room with books.The bookshelf is jammed with fiction and nonfiction titles Donaldson pulls out throughout the day to share with her students.”We have a library they have access to all day long,” she said. “And we’re reading to them all the time.”Donaldson teaches in the toddler room at Summit County Pre-School in Frisco. The 1- and 2-year-olds may be a long way from knowing the alphabet, but Donaldson and the rest of the staff take every opportunity to lay the foundations of literacy.
“Even the 1-year-olds have their favorite books. They point out the pictures and turn the pages. We point to animals and ask them to make animal sounds,” Donaldson said.According to early childhood development experts, literacy begins at birth – not when a child reaches school age. Over 90 percent of brain development occurs in the first three years of life, giving infants and toddlers the opportunity to learn important basic skills that pave the way to reading and writing down the road.”Any parent can tell you how much a child changes and grows in the first three months,” said Elizabeth Lowe, of Summit County’s Reading Early Always Learning (REAL) project. “The advances made in the first three years are astounding. Parents can start to promote early literacy as soon as a child is born.”Early literacy involves a lot more than reading. It covers the spectrum of communication: reading, writing, listening, speaking and singing. And building those skills in a child doesn’t require that parents sit their children down at a desk and whip out the flash cards.
For example, anything that develops fine motor skills will help a child write in later years.”Playing with Play-Doh, using scissors, coloring and scribbling all help build fine motor skills. Threading beads is another good activity. If they haven’t been working on that it’s harder to write. You see that especially in little boys,” Lowe said.Parents should also take the time to talk and listen to their little ones and make direct eye contact in the process. Learning the basics of communication is essential to acquiring more advanced skills.And all children, even those too young to recognize letters, should be exposed to books every day, Donaldson said. When the adults in their lives frequently have books in their hands, children realize there’s something of value in them.
“They have piles of books in the infant room. They don’t have to be able to walk. They can just sit there and turn the pages,” Donaldson said.Parents who aren’t fluent in English shouldn’t shy away from reading to their young children, according to Lowe. Reading in another language is better than not reading at all.”If a child is more fluent in Spanish, it will help them in English. Parents shouldn’t feel like they can’t read to their kids if they’re uncomfortable doing it in English. If you have a kid who has never seen a book, they’re going to be way behind when it comes to recognizing letters and sounding out words,” Lowe said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at email@example.com.
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