Supporting Early Literacy at Home

My 2.5 year old has discovered letters. She sees words everywhere and now automatically assumes they are all her name. Although it’s a little annoying to always hear “Look mommy, it’s my name” while she points at every random sign and word she sees, it’s also exciting because it shows a shift in her thinking. She has figured out that letters grouped together have a meaning. This is a big first step in early literacy, so I’m rolling with it. It will be a while still before she starts actually reading or writing anything. For now I’m just hoping to continue fostering her appreciation for text.

There are a lot of easy ways you can support early literacy development at home. Here are some of the things I’m doing that are inspired by the strategies teachers use in the classroom.

Play with letters

Some of our other favorites are Chicka Chicka, Boom Boom and B is for Bear.

An important first step towards learning to read is knowing the letters of the alphabet. Once children understand the concept of letters, they can begin to understand the relationship between written letters and letter sounds. The most common way to learn letters is through singing the Alphabet song, but don’t stop there. Play with alphabet puzzles, put magnetic letters on the fridge, read alphabet books, and point out familiar letters on signs. My daughter has been enjoying self-inking alphabet stamps that I found at the dollar store. I’m hoping she will eventually be able to match them to the letters of the alphabet, or the letters in her name.

Make text available

Kids are like sponges. They learn from everything they see around them. One of the ways Kindergarten teachers encourage literacy in the classroom is by exposing children to as much text as possible. We label everything, put books everywhere, and have pencils and paper in every corner. Now I’m not saying label everything in your house, but definitely make text more available. Read the labels on food, leave out baskets of books, make a shopping list together, or write a birthday card for a friend. Show your child how text is used in everyday life.

We are starting to work with the names of family members. I created this name matching activity for my daughter to help her start to recognize the letters in her name. You can save a copy of the template for yourself in Google Docs by clicking here (once open, click File > Make a copy, to enable editing). Fill the template in with names, or for older kids frequently used words, along with a matching picture. Print them and use them as name cards, labels for toy bins, or a matching activity. I laminated ours and added peel and stick magnets to the back so they would stick to the fridge.

I started with just giving her the names and faces, but that was too easy. So I’m slowly introducing magnetic letters to match to each name.

Read, read, read

Parents often start reading to their children at a young age. Reading has been a part of our bedtime routine since my daughter was a baby. Now that she is older, I let her choose what she wants to read. We take our time and look at the pictures, describing the details we see. In the classroom this is called a “picture walk”. This strategy teaches kids to look for clues in the pictures to understand the story. So even if they can’t read the words, they still have an idea of what’s going on. Looking at a familiar book, early readers can retell most of the story just from looking at the pictures.

I have been trying to encourage some independent reading at home. I’ve left some small baskets of books around the house with one of these simple little pieces of tubing called a whisper phone. They are often used in classrooms as a way for kids to read to themselves quietly. Whispering into the tube while it’s held up to your ear amplifies your voice. Young kids love them! Most educational supply stores sell versions of them, but they are also really easy to make yourself. Here’s a great video tutorial from My2ndGradeLife on how to make your own whisper phone.

Want more ideas for language development at home? Check out my post on Sensory Bins. They are a great way to introduce all kinds of new vocabulary.