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lunchbox letters

by wymbin

Experiencing Early Literacy

Can you think back to your earliest memories of experiencing literature? When I consider this, I am taken back to classic favorites, family library trips and asking for “just one more story” before bed. While the memories may be distant, these early days of literacy would actually become significant building blocks for mine, and your future growth and learning!

Students that are read to regularly at a young age, tend to develop stronger vocabulary and literacy skills. Early language and literacy as well as reading and writing development begins in the first three years of life and is closely linked to a child’s earliest experiences with books and stories. The interactions that young children have with literacy materials (books, paper, crayons, etc), along with the interactions they have with the adults in their lives, are the foundation for future language, reading, and writing development!

When we think of reading as less of an act and more of an experience, we can begin to see how closely it is actually interlaced with social and cognitive development. When we engage in a shared reading experience with a child, we are co-constructing meaning! Through this ‘experience,’ we are modelling connections to characters, connections to real life, social dynamics, real world problems and more.

Ways to model connection to a story book when reading with your child ...

  • Text to Text: Does this remind us of something else we’ve read? eg) “Hey buddy, do you remember that story we got from the library last month that also had a funny song?”

  • Text to Self: Does this remind us of something in our lives? eg) “Wow, the celebration in this book makes me think of the way that our family celebrates Christmas - we also have a special tradition that we do every year.”

  • Text to World: Does this remind us of something in the real world? eg) “The dog in this story is so smart, remember when we drove past the service dog that was helping the lady cross the street? That was so cool! Do you remember what a service dog is?”

When we read aloud, we also ...

  • Build vocabulary

  • Build phonemic awareness

  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure

  • Create background knowledge

  • Provide a reading role model + inspire children

  • Plant the desire to read

  • Give children confidence to express likes and dislikes

  • Encourage children to take advantage of resources

  • Promote self direction/advocating for own learning

Some ways to promote independent early literacy before children are actually able to ‘read’ are modelling the following practices (which go hand in hand)

  • A Think Aloud: Using the title of the book, front cover, inside images and back cover to ask questions and make predictions together about what may happen in the story - focussing on the setting, characters and potential conflict, etc.

  • A Picture Walk: Flipping through the pages of the book, before reading the story, and asking your child what is happening in the illustrations - you could even make up your own story together and see if it comes true!

You can also pause often throughout the story and ask your child prompted questions, such as

“How do you think the character is feeling right now?"
“What makes you think that?”
"What do you think might happen next?”

Even though it may not seem as engaging as having a story read to a child, independent time with books is SO important. It teaches children how we treat and care for books, as well as concepts of print such as:

Book language - books are formatted with a cover, title, and author with spine on the left + pages flip from left to right

Print starts on the left and moves right and lines of print move from top to bottom (in English!)

Print has letters, words and sentences (white space shows gap where word ends and begins)

Upper and lower case letter recognition and matching

Some more skills to consider, ‘pre reading and writing’ that build concepts of print are:

  • Tracking along with fingers

  • Playing with language - making up songs together

  • Children ‘reading’ to stuffed animals/friends

  • Opportunities to speak in front of a group (sharing circles)

  • Pointing to specific aspects of the book, words, images

  • Repetitive text (rhyming, recurring phrases, etc)

  • Labeling, environmental print (noticing letters/words at the grocery store)

  • Different types of reading - read aloud, partner reading, independent reading

  • Predictable stories and text (patterned writing)

  • Letter play (magnets on the fridge, foam letters in the bathtub)

  • Early writing - scribbles, to letter approximations, to invented spelling

  • Scribing stories for children

“What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.”

- Jim Trelease

Happy reading, my friends!!

- Brenna Valde

Brenna Valde is the Supervisor and one our Lead Educators at Wymbin! Brenna has her Bachelor of Education Degree focussed in Elementary Education, with a minor in Teaching English as a Second Language. One of her favourite things to do in class is read stories with the children! Brenna is passionate about early literature and loves reading children’s books. Outside of the classroom, you can find Brenna teaching her spin classes at HotShop, going for walks and hanging out at home.

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