Close your eyes and picture Story Time at the library. You probably smiled and pictured someone with a book in the front of a room, right? But did you also picture dancing, singing, rhyming, music, rhythms, talking and playtime? If not, I’m guessing you haven’t been to a story time at Newport Way Library lately! Our story times look like a room full of fun (and they are!), but underneath that fun, your children’s librarian puts serious work into making story time a learning time for young children. The goal? Supporting you and your child’s early literacy skill building. Early literacy is defined as “what children know about communication, language (verbal and non-verbal), reading and writing before they can actually read and write.” Zero to Three, 2011. Early Literacy is not about learning to read, but rather about building the foundation for reading, so when your child enters school they are ready to learn to read. Happily the building blocks needed are many things parents and story time librarians do naturally and easily – you just may not be aware of the specific skills that underlie the activities. Some prime examples include singing and rhyming with their rhythmic patterns and rich vocabulary, having conversational back and forth even before your baby can talk to promote vocabulary and background knowledge, sharing books that develop print awareness and help to build vocabulary (books are a rich source for words we don’t use in everyday language), fingerplays for motor skills, as well as the positive social interactions around early literacy activities that open the brain up to learning.
Why all the fuss about early literacy? Two points that bring it home are these:
Birth to 5 are important years for brain development. Since you are with your child the most, you are in the best position to seize everyday, bite-size learning opportunities like talking about what you are doing, singing songs along with chores and for comforting, pointing out letters on signs or labels, modeling a love of books and more.
Reading is critically linked to success in school. Being read to and having access books in the home as a young child are two conditions that have been linked in multiple studies to reading and school success. It should be noted that reading success is important for all classes, not just Language Arts. For example, if you can’t comprehend the wording in instructions, a math problem or a history text, you will have great difficulty working with that material.
For more early literacy information and support, contact your library’s Children’s Librarian or come to a Story Time. In the meantime, you can explore these quality information sources:
Talking is Teaching – quick tips for infant and toddler activities that support early literacy
Nancy Stewart Sing with Our Kids – great resource about the power of music and singing to foster early literacy, with free downloadables
Zero to Three – multiple articles on early literacy and math literacy
KCLS Tell Me a Story – vast collection of rhymes and songs for early learning (searchable by subject, and many with video) from KCLS children’s librarians