Monday, September 3, 2012

Supporting Literacy

At Tumbleweeds, we believe in supporting literacy from a young age. In order to best understand how we support literacy, it is important to first define it. Literacy is the ability to comprehend reading, writing, listening, and speaking and the ability to analyze the meaning of what we have comprehended.  One way we support literacy within these cohorts is name tags on the children's cubbies. Each cubby holds a name tag that appropriately utilizes capitals and lower case letters to spell the child's name. Sometimes the cubby may feature a whole name while other times the cubby may feature just an initial. Below you can see the name tags from my own cohort which do use just one initial. The initials present the idea of an icon to the child. We talk about the letter in the classroom during our daily activities. "Hey HH, here is your shirt. You can put it in your cubby. Your cubby is the one with the letter H. There it is- the letter H!"

Another way of supporting literacy in this age is that books are available at all times to the children. They are in a basket on the ground that gives the children the ability to access them as they please. We read together throughout our day as well, sometimes as a group and sometimes one on one. The book area is made to be comfortable and inviting so that children are naturally drawn to it. Simply reading books with a child is a great way to begin supporting early literacy, but there are many other things that you can do with children as well. Handling books with respect and care helps to build an interest in literacy early on in life. Mimicking actions within the book and talking about the pictures you see in the book are also great tools for building an interest in literacy.

One more thing we do to support literacy in toddlers is offering them the use of a pen or pencil early on. Holding a writing instrument and becoming familiar with it from an early age also helps build an interest in literacy. We set up the child for success by talking about the pencil or pen as we hand it to them and offering them paper. We remind them that the paper is available to be written on and if surfaces that are not available for writing find themselves written upon we simply remind the child. This approach of supporting the child's success through setting up expectations and reminding them of the expectations takes any shame out of the experience. This helps to confirm that their experiences with literacy will be positive ones.

Speaking with children is yet another way to support early literacy. Through word games, direction, and even just everyday discussion we can convey to children the roots of literacy. The natural pauses of a conversation help to build the attention span of a child. Verbal communication plays an important role in making brain connections that are essential for literacy as well. Repetition is especially important when communication as it helps children to match the icon (the object or action) to the word. For example, repeating that the child has a red car will help them to recognize the object as matching those particular words.

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