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325 West Gaines Street, Suite 514  ·  Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400  ·  Phone: 850-245-0503  ·  Fax: 850-245-9530

 Helping Parents Promote Literacy Skills

Closer Look

Special Edition, Spring 2001

There is increasing evidence that parental beliefs and attitudes about reading and the opportunities parents provide their children in reading can greatly influence children's reading development. Parents provide practice in the foundational skills that young children need when they begin formal reading instruction in school. Parents can promote their children's literacy learning in many ways. They can involve them in different play activities that increase their child's awareness of language and print. Talking and singing to children during early infancy encourages them to try to imitate the sounds that they hear. Talking with adults is a child's best opportunity for learning new words and ideas. How parents read aloud to their children can significantly affect children's learning experiences and opportunities. When parents combine reading out loud with asking and responding to questions they increase learning and comprehension. When parents are shown how to become more responsive when reading and "dialogic" (dialoging back and forth about the content) during shared reading, gains in their children's skills have been noted.

Reading Must Be Taught
While acquiring language comes naturally for most children, learning to read does not. It is a skill that must be taught. Children who already know about their world and the purpose of language will be better prepared to learn how to read when they enter school. Parents can help their children prepare by providing a print-rich environment in the home. Magazines, newspapers, and a collection of high-quality children' books provide material that parents can read aloud to their children.

Emergent Reading
As children become more familiar with the stories that are being read to them, they will attempt to pretend to read. This is known as emergent reading. Children are not actually reading from the books, but reciting the stories as they remember them. Encourage this retelling since it promotes the value of reading as a highly desired skill. Certain toys are also useful in promoting literacy skills such as alphabet blocks and magnetic letters that can be manipulated to make words. Children become familiar with the letters of the alphabet and with their shapes and sounds through these activities. Dolls and puppets can be used to act out stories.

Using Neighborhood to Foster Skills
The local neighborhood is a print-rich environment that offers many opportunities to expose children to words, symbols, and logos, which will increase their general knowledge. Supermarkets are particularly good for increasing literacy skills. Parents can have their children assist in creating a shopping list, looking at coupons from flyers and talking about the letters and signs in the store that often are paired with a picture. Parents can also help children make selections from restaurant menus, point out words on signs and read the schedules of buses, subways, and trains.

These are just a few of the ways that parents provide the foundation for building their children's literacy skills. Providing print-rich environments, engaging children in meaningful discussions with proving questions, and teaching children about letters and words will better prepare the to learn how to read when they enter school. Perhaps most important of all is modeling that reading is fun and is part of the everyday activities that the whole family enjoys.

Adolescents