An Expert’s View on Cultivating Early Literacy Skills in Toddlers
From those early gurgles and coos to when they begin sitting up and crawling, parents experience inexplicable joy every time their babies show signs of growth. We’re sure, you too are invested in your little one’s growth and development every step of the way!
Your baby is absorbing everything happening in her surroundings from the very beginning. Babies even learn their first words from the family members they are constantly with. Let’s go beyond the basic “Mamma” and “Dadda” (although we know just how exciting it is to hear them!) and talk about cultivating early literacy skills in babies.
To get an expert insight into practical ways to do so, we hosted a live session with Insiyah Rahim, an educator and parent coach. If you’d like to watch the entire session, and hear all of her advice for yourself, watch the video below.
For your benefit, we’ve also listed all of the key points in the article below!
Video: Cultivating Early Literacy Skills in Toddlers
Let’s begin with understanding what literacy skills are.
What Are Literacy Skills?
Literacy skills are the skills we need for reading and writing. They mainly include the awareness of the sounds, the letters, and the understanding of their relationship to develop and enhance spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension. Literacy skills help toddlers express their thoughts and feelings in written or spoken words.
It has been observed that cultivating literacy skills in kids early in their lives makes them confident when it comes to reading and writing. As a parent, you need to approach the topic with care to ensure you maintain a stress-free and enjoyable environment that encourages your little one to learn and develop. So, how can you cultivate early literacy skills in your munchkin? By understanding the milestones, which we shall talk about in the next section.
Milestones for Literacy in the Early Years
As mentioned earlier, babies start picking up sounds and speech (phonetics) very early in their lives. However, the development of language comes in several milestones, some of which are given below.
1. For Babies Up to a Year Old
For kids under a year old, sounds and gestures play an important role in developing their literacy skills. They can understand and easily relate to repetitive sounds and gestures. This develops a natural tendency to respond with their cute little “aahs” and “coos”. As a parent, you can begin reading kids’ graphic storybooks to your child to grasp sounds and speech quickly. Once your little one is exposed to books, you will even notice her reaching out for the book and being excited about storytime. She will also actively touch the pages, turn them, and make sounds for the words you repeat every time you read the story.
2. For Toddlers 1 to 3 Years Old
Toddlers who have been introduced to storybooks, sounds, pictures, and speech in their infancy have a little advanced level of understanding of the language. They begin responding to questions by making sounds that resemble the words. They might even have a favourite book by now, and they love it if you read it to them several times a day. This is the time you can begin pointing at objects in the storybook and saying their names out loud to teach your child a new word every day. This activity will build your child’s vocabulary.
Also, by this age, kids can, with some ease, hold a crayon. Therefore, you can introduce your munchkin to writing by encouraging her to scribble on a piece of paper. The best part about this age group is that children start mimicking grownups, and you can use this opportunity to encourage your little one to read and write (or pretend to read and write) by becoming a role model.
3. Preschool and Late Preschool Kids (3 Years and Above)
Toddlers 3 years and above can explore their books independently. Of course, they need someone to read the stories out to them, but they begin finding the world of books and stories fascinating. Now, you can start reading longer stories to your child or even combine two stories she already knows. Late preschoolers also understand that the letters are to be read from left to right.
The scribbling activity can be taken a step ahead, and you can introduce your little one to squiggles and lines that resemble the letters of the alphabet. A great way to go about it is to help your little one recognise the letters in her own name and scribble them. Don’t worry much if the writing is incorrect. She will get it eventually. What matters at this age is that she feels encouraged to write and read.
So, now you know the various milestones of cultivating literacy skills in your little one.
If you are wondering how you could do that, you will find the next section of the article extremely helpful.
Tips to Develop Early Literacy Skills in Your Toddler
These tips will help you have a disciplined approach towards helping your little one develop and enhance her literary skills.
1. The ‘READERS’ Approach
Miss Insiyah Rahim advises parents to use the ‘READERS’ approach to inculcate reading habits in their little ones.
Here’s what ‘READERS’ stands for:
- R – Become a ‘Role model’. As mentioned earlier, kids imitate their parents. If they see you reading or writing, they will also pick it up.
- E – Explain new words when you read your munchkin’s favourite storybooks. This helps build her vocabulary. You may start with one new word per day.
- A – Introducing the ‘Alphabet’. Point at the alphabet in the storybook, or use flashcards and say the letter out loud.
- D – Practise ‘Direct talk’. Talk a lot to your kid for she can absorb the new sounds, gestures, and even some simple words. The more you talk, the more she will learn. Alternatively, you can also ask questions and encourage her to respond.
- E – Encourage every attempt of reading and writing your little one makes. Literacy skills need practice, and they are developed over time. Avoid pushing your child to excel. Give her the freedom to express herself even if it is spoken or written incorrectly.
- R – Enrol in ‘Reading Programs’ to help your child understand complex sounds, which is a common concern in the English language. Several programs benefit kids aged five and above (including adults).
- S – Success comes after continuity, which can be achieved by making reading a habit for your child. A sign that she is learning is when she will read for the pure pleasure of gaining knowledge, escaping in a different world, and when reading will be as easy as breathing for her.
2. Literacy in Multiple Languages
Several kids, especially in countries like India, are introduced to more than one language. If your child is one of them, encourage her to speak in multiple languages, by exposing her to them. Ensure she has access to good quality language, and also continue talking and reading a lot to her in as many languages as possible. This will build her vocabulary and increase her confidence in the language.
3. Journal Thoughts and Feelings
When your kid begins writing and reading, encourage her to journal her thoughts and feelings and read them out. Appreciate her effort and correct her along the way so that she is encouraged to keep doing better.
Remember that toddlers have a low attention span. Therefore, your child may or may not remember several things she may have heard, read, or written the previous day. Be patient about it and keep trying. If you continue repeating the sounds and the words and encouraging your little one to read, her literary skills will eventually improve.