The Early Years: Tips for parents and grandparents
By: Deb Archer for the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
Encouraging Conversation Skills to Promote Literacy
All the experts agree on the importance of promoting literacy in our homes. But what does that look like for a mom or dad at home with their young children?
One of the first things we can work on with our kids is improving their conversation skills. If our children do not understand what words mean, how can we expect them to have any interest in reading? As parents, we can help our children with their conversation skills simply by talking to them.
Identify different objects you come across during the day-- rocks, bridges, fuzzy things, hot things or whatever else you see. At ECFE we talked about these ideas and some moms noted how they talk with their kids about everything they do during the day. “We are going to have some breakfast, then we are going to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, then we need to get dressed,” and so on. Our kids need to hear new words and begin to learn what all these words mean.
It is equally important that we listen to our children. We need to ask them questions, too, so they learn to express their ideas, no matter how long it may take. Resist the urge to finish their sentences for them, even if you know what they are trying to tell you. Let them practice putting words together to express their thoughts. Research shows that the more children and their parents talk, the better they will read. Grandparents have a special relationship with grandchildren and can be great listeners, also.
A wonderful activity to promote these conversation skills is storytelling. When we tell stories, we put events in a certain order. The story has a beginning, an order of events, and a conclusion. A great way to work on this with your kids is to tell stories about family events. You can recount how an event happened and then have your child retell the event in his or her own words. Story telling not only develops conversation skills, but also helps children develop vocabulary, another pre-reading literacy skill.
Some people, such as my husband and his brother, are excellent storytellers. Among my kids’ favorite memories are the sleepovers with their cousins, when their dad and uncle would tell the bedtime story. When one dad would pause, the other would step in and add something. These story telling events usually ended with six girls laughing and begging them to continue just a little bit longer! If you are a good storyteller, use that gift to promote literacy. The cozy special moments are a bonus.
Deb Archer is a licensed preschool teacher and parent educator with 20 years’ experience working, playing and nurturing children. She owns Kickstart Preschool, an all-day preschool program for children ages three to five.