Proven ideas from research for parents
The Partnership for Reading
Produced by RMC Research Corporation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Bonnie B. Armbruster, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignFran Lehr, M.A., Lehr & Associates, Champaign, IllinoisJean Osborn, M. Ed., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This publication was produced under National Institute for Literacy Contract No. ED-00CO-0093 with RMC Research Corporation. Sandra Baxter served as the contracting officer's technical representative. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Institute for Literacy. No official endorsement by the National Institute for Literacy of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise in this publication is intended or should be inferred.
Sandra Baxter, Interim Executive Director
Lynn Reddy, Communications Director
To order copies of this booklet, contact the National Institute for Literacy at EdPubs, PO Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398. Call 800-228-8813 or email email@example.com.
The National Institute for Literacy, an independent federal organization, supports the development of high quality state, regional, and national literacy services so that all Americans can develop the literacy skills they need to succeed at work, at home, and in the community.
The Partnership for Reading, a project administered by the National Institute for Literacy, is a collaborative effort of the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make evidence-based reading research available to educators, parents, policy makers, and others with an interest in helping all people learn to read well.
The Partnership for Reading acknowledges editorial support from C. Ralph Adler and design support from Diane Draper, both of RMC Research Corporation.
The building blocks of reading and writing
Infants and toddlers (birth through age 2)
What to do at home
What children should be able to do by age 3
Preschoolers (ages 3-4)
What to do at home
What to look for in day care centers and preschools
What children should be able to do by age 5
Some helpful terms to know
Suggested reading for parents and caregivers
Resources for parents and caregivers
When does a child learn to read? Many people might say, "in kindergarten or first grade." But researchers have told us something very important. Learning to read and write can start at home, long before children go to school. Children can start down the road to becoming readers from the day they are born.
Very early, children begin to learn about spoken language when they hear their family members talking, laughing, and singing, and when they respond to all of the sounds that fill their world. They begin to understand written language when they hear adults read stories to them and see adults reading newspapers, magazines, and books for themselves. These early experiences with spoken and written language set the stage for children to become successful readers and writers.
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers, this booklet is for you. It gives ideas for playing, talking, and reading with your child that will help him* become a good reader and writer later in life. You don't need special training or expensive materials. For your baby or toddler, you can just include some simple, fun language games and activities into the things you already do together every day. For your preschooler, you can keep in touch with your child's teachers so that you know what he is learning in school and support that learning at home.
This booklet contains:
Remember, keep it simple and have fun. Make these activities part of the warm, loving relationship you are already creating with your child.
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From several decades of research, we have learned a lot about how children learn to read and write. This research tells us that to become skilled and confident readers over time, young children need lots of opportunities to:
Remember the old saying "children should be seen and not heard"? Research tells us that for children to become readers, they should listen and talk a lot.
By the time children are one year old, they already know a lot about spoken language--talking and listening. They recognize some speech sounds. They know which sounds make the words that are important to them. They begin to imitate those sounds. Children learn all of this by listening to family members talk. Even "baby talk," which exaggerates the sounds and rhythms of words, makes a contribution to children's ability to understand language. Children who do not hear a lot of talk and who are not encouraged to talk themselves often have problems learning to read.
Even though books don't come with operating instructions, we use them in certain ways. We hold them right side-up. We turn the pages one at a time. We read lines of words starting at the left and moving to the right. Knowing about print and books and how they are used is called print awareness.
Print awareness is an important part of knowing how to read and write. Children who know about print understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related. They will use and see print a lot, even when they're young--on signs and billboards, in alphabet books and storybooks, and in labels, magazines, and newspapers. They see family members use print, and they learn that print is all around them and that it is used for different purposes.
* A letter between slash marks, /b/, shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents, and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter b represents the sound /b/.
Some words rhyme. Sentences are made up of separate words. Words have parts called syllables. The words bag, ball, and bug all begin with the same sound. When a child begins to notice and understand these things about spoken language, he is developing phonological awareness--the ability to hear and work with the sounds of spoken language.
When a child also begins to understand that spoken words are made up of separate, small sounds, he is developing phonemic awareness. These individual sounds in spoken language are called phonemes. For example, the word big has three phonemes, /b/, /i/, and /g/.*
Children who have phonemic awareness can take spoken words apart sound by sound (the name for this is segmentation) and put together sounds to make words (the name for this is blending). Research shows that how easily children learn to read can depend on how much phonological and phonemic awareness they have.
Singing the alphabet song is more than just a fun activity. Children who go to kindergarten already knowing the shapes and names of the letters of the alphabet, and how to write them, have an easier time learning to read. Knowing the names and shapes of letters is sometimes called alphabetic knowledge.
Reading aloud to children has been called the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading. Reading aloud, with children participating actively, helps children learn new words, learn more about the world, learn about written language, and see the connection between words that are spoken and words that are written.
What to do at home
Talking to and reading to infants and toddlers are two good ways to prepare them for later success in reading.
Even six-week-old babies like the feeling of closeness when a parent, grandparent, or other caretaker reads to them. When children find out that reading with a loving adult can be a warm, happy experience, they begin to build a lifelong love of reading.
Reading aloud also helps children learn specific things about reading and words.
Good books for infants and toddlers
The following is a list of accomplishments that you can expect for your child by age 3. This list is based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules.
A three-year-old child . . .
At ages 3 and 4, children are growing rapidly in their language use and in their knowledge of reading and writing. They are learning the meanings of many new words, and they are beginning to use words in more complicated sentences when they speak. They know more about books and print. They are eager to write. They may even be showing an interest in learning to read.
Many three- and four-year-old children attend day care centers or preschool for part or most of the day. The information in this section of the booklet will help you and your child, whether your child stays at home all day or attends a day care center or preschool.
Continue to talk and read with your child, as you did when he was an infant and toddler. Also, add some new and more challenging activities.
If your child attends a day care center or preschool, look for these important characteristics of teachers, classrooms, and instruction.
In quality day care centers and preschools, teachers . . .
In quality day care centers and preschools, classrooms have. . .
In quality day care centers and preschools, teachers. . .
The following is a list of some accomplishments that you can expect for your child by age 5. This list is based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules.
A five-year-old child . . .
A five-year-old child. . .
Day care providers and preschool teachers might use some of the following terms when talking to you about how your child is learning to read. You will find that many of these terms are used in this booklet.
Here are some books that can provide you with more information about early reading and writing.
The following government groups can provide you with useful information about learning to read.
The Partnership for Reading
Even Start Family Literacy Program
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education www.ericeece.org
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication http://www.eric.ed.gov/
National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)
No Child Left Behind for Parents http://ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.html
Partnership for Family Involvement in Education
Date Published: 2003Date Posted: March 2010
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