Provide books with engaging pictures and predictable text for preschoolers.

What Literacy Skills Can Parents Model for Their Children?

by Nannette Richford

You may cringe in embarrassment when little Sally mimics your tone of voice and facial expressions in response to your mother-in-law's bossy behavior, but the truth is, it's only a sign of her desire to be like you. The literacy and communication skills you model for her now will influence her--and your mother-in-law--for years to come.

1. Visiting Libraries and Book Stores

Visit libraries and book stores often to introduce your preschooler to the magical world of books. When your child observes you examining the cover, reading the dust jacket and thumbing through the pages to get a feel for the book, she learns where to find vital information when choosing a book. Although she may not be ready yet to do it herself, you are laying the groundwork for choosing appropriate books to read. Allowing her to follow suit and examine books that interest her reinforces that she is capable of choosing books wisely.

2. Retelling the Story and Making Predictions

Your preschooler is ready to begin retelling the story after you've read a book together. Although this seems simple, sequencing is an important step to learning to read and write. Model retelling stories for your preschooler first, then encourage him to retell the story. Prompt him with questions if he leaves out important information. Although he won't remember all the details, your preschooler should be able to retell the main events of a short story in the proper order without difficulty. When reading new books together, make predictions and ask questions about what will happen next. Think out loud as you ponder why characters do the things they do or what consequences they may face. Once she gets the idea, let her join the fun. Making predictions about what will happen next is a lot of fun for kids. Let your child look at the pictures if she has difficulty guessing what comes next. This teaches your child to think about what is happening in the story and to make simple predictions based on what she already knows. This builds comprehension skills and prepares your little one for the wonderful world of learning to read on her own.

3. Rhymes and Word Games

Let's face it. Kids love rhymes. Fortunately, learning to hear and make rhyming words is an important skill to developing literacy skills. Get into the habit of playing word games as you go about your typical day. Demonstrate rhyming words and making up silly rhymes with your child. Challenge him to do the same. Offer a word to begin and allow him to find as many rhyming words as he can. Start simple with one-syllable words such as "bell," "box" or "dog" and work your way to more complex words as his skills develop. Beware of words that may rhyme with others you prefer your child does not say, particularly when grandma is present. This a good time to challenge Junior to identify words that begin with the same sound, but keep it simple and model the skill before asking him to play along. At this age, a single consonant sound is best. Try "t", "b" and "s" to get things moving. Blends made with more than one letter, such as "fl", "st" and "tr" are a bit more complicated and may be difficult for your preschooler to identify.

4. Modeling Reading and Writing

Get into the habit of reading for pleasure and to find information, so your child sees that you value reading. Display books and magazines around the home where your child will see them everyday. What you read isn't nearly as important as reading, but put away any questionable mags before little Sally decides to read them to the in-laws. But reading isn't the only thing your youngster should see you doing. Writing is also an important part of literacy. Fortunately for you, you don't need to be a novelist to make an impression. Make grocery lists, jot down notes and write letters when your little one is near so she sees how important writing is, too. Taking the list with you when you shop and referring to it often models the importance of both reading and writing.

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