Literacy and language develop together in children. Reading and writing develop along with speaking and listening. And it all begins at birth with a child's first cooing. There are many ways child care providers can boost children's language skills at different ages. Here are several ways to help expand the language and literacy skills of children in your child care program.
Newborn to 3 Months
- Hold babies often. Physical contact helps them feel secure.
- Talk to babies about what you are doing while holding them.
- Feeding is a great time to talk to babies.
- Play little games of moving an object slowly and letting them follow it with their eyes.
- Read, play music and sing songs and nursery rhymes to babies.
4 to 6 Months
- Start reading to babies every day. Begin with five-minute sessions. Lengthen the time as children can pay attention longer.
- Point to pictures and words as you read. Talk about the colors, the number of things portrayed in the pictures and directions (up, down).
- Make up stories to go with the picture books. Animal books are great. Make up animal noises to go with them.
- Change the texture of items babies play with (wooden spoons, fuzzy toys). Talk about how they feel.
7 to 12 Months
- Continue to read to babies. Be sure that there are not too many words on a page. Make up your own stories to go along with the pictures in books.
- Read the same books to children over and over again until they become familiar with the books.
- Give children enough time to really enjoy each picture.
- Play pat-a-cake, peek-a-boo, and finger games such as "This Little Piggy." Your local library will have books on great games to play with babies.
1 to 2 Years (Toddlers)
- Have a regular time each day to share books with toddlers. As a child care provider, you may want to have reading time in a group.
- Let toddlers help you read the story by turning the pages and repeating the words and sentences when they can.
- Use different voices for the different characters in the story. This will make it more fun for the children.
- Use children's names often. Put their names into the story-line of a favorite book. Name other people, animals and objects and actions as you talk with toddlers.
- Share nursery rhymes and nursery songs often. They will start to enjoy games such as "Ring Around the Rosy" and "London Bridge". Great song and nursery rhyme books can be found at the library.
3 to 4 Years (Preschoolers)
- Let children choose the book or books to read. Children love to hear the same stories over and over again.
- Start reading books that are a little longer. Make listening to a story something fun. Don't demand that a child sit and listen if he or she is not interested.
- Make sure that children see you and others reading daily.
- Take children to a story time at the public library. Or, if working in a child care center, keep a library of books for the children in your care to read.
- Involve children in a variety of reading activities - books, games, books with CDs, special stories or times with you.
- Talk about stories and experiences with the children in your care.
- Make puppets about favorite books. This is an activity that can occur after reading time with children in your care. If you're able to, take them to the library to find books on making puppets, or you can go yourself and bring them into the center you work in.
5 Years and Older
- Make reading important. Children learn to read better if their worlds have books, newspapers and magazines. Books for all ages are available to borrow free from your local library.
- Continue reading to children even though they may be beginning to read on their own. Take turns reading to each other.
- You can make a game of learning to identify words. Point out what the signs say.
- Play rhyming games with children. Say a word and allow children to come up with a rhyme or vice versa.
- Make frequent trips to the public library. Keep books in a library for your classroom, periodically change the books you have provided for children in your care so that children can get a variety of books that they read.
- Have patience. Learning to read is a challenge.
For More Information
To learn more about supporting developing literacy skills in child care, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: