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It’s never too early for literacy skills

Anita Ditz
Anita Ditz Photo provided

Read, write, sing, talk, play — these five simple words are activities that have a powerful effect on a child’s life. They are the foundation for the development of early literacy skills that provide the essential abilities needed to communicate effectively. It’s never too early to start.

Interacting with a child begins at birth. Parents can easily engage in these activities every day — and the best part is that they don’t cost any money.

By reading, singing, playing, talking and writing with their children each day, parents are modeling and encouraging them to develop important pre-reading skills. Children learn to recognize words and the smaller sounds that make up words. They learn the meaning of words and learn to tell stories themselves. They learn the names and sounds of letters and become comfortable with books. Reading aloud stimulates language development even before a child can talk, and gives children the opportunity to practice listening — a crucial skill for kindergarten and beyond.

Here are some easy ways to reach these goals:

▪ When a relative or friend asks what your child would like for a gift, suggest a book.

▪ Read books to your child — and read them again and again. Hearing the same story multiple times helps children increase their vocabulary. Familiarity is the key to learning new words and increasing reading comprehension.

▪ Have your child “write” a thank you note after receiving a gift. (Yes — scribbling does count as writing for a preschooler!) Children could also draw a picture or dictate the words for you to write.

Lullabies may be the first songs your child hears. It doesn’t matter if you sing off-tune — this is one of the best ways to teach children the different sounds that make up words and language. The rhythm and rhymes found in children’s songs are first steps in developing phonics skills. Listen to songs by Raffi, Laurie Berkner or Elizabeth Mitchell.

Talking to your child is the simplest way to build vocabulary. Talk about the different foods you see while grocery shopping. Explain road signs. Tell stories.

Just talk, talk, talk ...

Play is the work of children — and parents can join in the fun. Put together a box of costumes and props and create plays together, or re-enact favorite stories. Splash in puddles together or jump in piles of leaves. Free your inner child and just be silly!

Public libraries can provide lots of resources to foster the basic literacy skills.

Schlow Centre Region Library has a circulating toy collection that includes blocks, puzzles and games. You can find CDs that teach new songs and introduce music from around the world. Of course, there are lots and lots of books. Ask the librarian for recommendations and discover titles your child will love.

Remember — children spell love “T-I-M-E” — and the time spent reading, writing, singing talking, and playing together provides the building blocks for success.

Anita Ditz is head of children’s services at Schlow Centre Region Library. She can be reached at