Next week, classrooms across the nation will celebrate the birthday of famed children’s author Dr. Seuss by hosting reading events for elementary school children. But, did you know that Dr. Seuss wanted a love of reading to start much earlier? It’s even rumored that his most popular book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, was meant to be read in utero.
Perhaps Seuss knew what so many in our community are just beginning to understand: children are born learning, and their early experiences lay the foundation for success in school and in life. In fact, studies have linked the number of words children know at ages 3 and 4 to their reading comprehension levels at ages 9 and 10.
Just 15-30 minutes per day of reading together can have a tremendous impact on children now and for years to come. For infants, reading and other interactions with adults help their brains learn the sounds needed to develop language. As they grow, reading helps babies understand that objects have names, and that words represent those names. As children get older, reading helps them to learn letters, sounds, vocabulary, and higher concepts such as: past/present tense, subject/verb agreement, critical thinking (when asked what comes next in a story); and, of course, the knowledge the books’ content has to offer.
First Things First offers the following tips for parents and caregivers to help babies, toddlers and preschoolers develop those important language and literacy skills:
- Read to your child every day starting at birth. Even very young babies respond to the warmth of a lap and the soothing sound of a book being read aloud.
- Keep a lot of reading material in your home and let your child see you reading.
- Make frequent visits to the public library.
- Talk frequently to your baby, toddler or preschooler; ask them lots of questions and listen patiently to their answers.
- Sing songs and make up rhymes.
- Choose books appropriate to your child’s age and interests; for example, board or cloth books that a baby can hold.
- Point out letters in your child’s environment.
- Read signs and labels out loud; talk about how things are similar and different.
In addition, First Things First’s YouTube page hosts videos that demonstrate how to read with infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The organization also partners with Read On Arizona, which engages communities in supporting early literacy for kids birth to 8 years old and has an early literacy guide for families and book suggestions for every developmental stage on their website.
If you know a child between birth and 5 years old, please read with them as often as possible. Those early literacy experiences will lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning!
Dr. Aaliyah Samuel is Senior Director of Family Support & Literacy at First Things First. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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