Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Fostering Language and Literacy

We are continuing our look at early literacy. We've already looked at three pre-reading skills: print motivation, print awareness, and letter knowledge. We'll cover the last three skills in May. To wrap up March, I've invited my friend, Rebecka Wright, to share some thoughts on encouraging literacy in young children. Rebecka is a student at Utah Valley University (UVU) and was able to attend (and participate in) the Forum on Children's Literature at UVU a few weeks ago. And now, the post!

Hi, my name is Rebecka Wright. I’m a junior in the UVU elementary education program. I’m married to Barry and we have three children; Sammy, 14; Emily 12; and Steven 10. Our children have always been very verbal and in western societies this is a characteristic that is associated with intelligence or being smart. Sometimes people ask us what we do (or have done) to bring this to pass. Usually I’m at a loss, “I don’t know. We were just lucky.” And to some extent this is true, our children are who they are before they come to us. This semester I’m taking literacy methods and I’ve been learning how language and literacy are fostered. There are two specific things that are correlated to future success in school that I want to share today. The first is parent talk, the second is books, books and more books.

Both the quantity and quality of talk parents direct at infants and toddlers is important. The more verbal a family is, the more of a foundation children have to build on. One study shows parents who talk less use their talk mainly to control and guide students. Parents who talk more do this and offer approval, affirmations, descriptions, and explanations. Language is best developed in one on one conversations where children talk with an adult about things that are important to them and experiences they have shared. When I began to learn this in school I thought, “Oh, this is something we did!” Barry and I talked a lot to our children, explaining and eliciting their participation in the conversation.

The number of books children are exposed to in their home is correlated with literacy development and success in school. Parents who are readers often have children who are readers. You probably already know this, I did. What I didn’t know are some of the things my children were learning when we shared a story book. The first things children learn are concepts of print. They learn that a book is upside right when the binding is on the left and the pages on the right. They learn that the title and author are on the front cover, and that the cover gives us clues about what’s in the book. They learn that we read from left to right, and that letters make words and that words contain messages and stories. Most important they learn that reading is enjoyable and useful.

So what can you learn from my reflection?
  • Talk a lot to your children. Give running commentaries and descriptions, explanations and praise.
  • Talk with your children. Ask them how they feel, what they saw, what they like, and why, etc.
  • Fill your house with books and let your children see you reading for fun and for purpose.
  • Read with your children; encourage them to pretend to read and to recite their favorites. Tell them what you think of what you read together and ask them what they think.
Amber mentioned that I attended the UVU Forum on Children’s Literature. It was a fabulous experience and I met some incredible authors, illustrators and educators. Below are links to some of the speaker’s blogs and websites. I hope you enjoy exploring them.

One of my favorite authors, Shannon Hale:
I’ve never had favorite illustrators before but these two gentlemen are my first, Robert Nuebecker and Guy Francis:

Thanks for letting me visit, Amber.
{Glad to have you, Rebecka! Today I'm posting over at Make and Takes so come check it out!}


Kris said...

Thank you for sharing such invaluable information!

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