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Literacy: Tips For Reading to Children
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, November 2009

Among the most valued and precious experiences children can have is to be read to by an adult. The act of sitting close to someone you care about, feeling the warmth of their arm around your shoulder, hearing the lilt, rhythm, and tone of their voice, helps to create a sense of safety, security, and a love of books and reading. As a result of these trying economic times, there is an increasing number of children who are living in poverty and in lower income situations. Without books, children cannot develop the pre-literacy skills they need to become readers. By the time children are in kindergarten, they do not have the basic early literacy skills for life long success. They enter school behind and they just don't catch up. Access to age appropriate books and early education programs are vital for children to be able to learn to read. I am grateful to Jumpstart for Young Children for sharing their suggestions about preparing children for success.

Our country is experiencing a severe early literacy crisis. This literacy gap affects children from low-income households, primarily because 2/3 of these PRE-SCHOOL children do not have age appropriate (or any) books in their homes. About 10 million children have difficulties learning to read. Of those children many drop out of school. A disproportionately high number of our youth with criminal records have trouble reading. Each of us can help to develop pre-literacy skills (alphabet and print knowledge, phonological awareness, name writing, recognition of letter sounds, rhyming, and developing a vocabulary) in all children.

Set a Time - Dedicate a specific time to read to a child every day (bedtime, mealtime, bathtime) which is best for you and the child.

Read Aloud - Read aloud to young children (from birth!).

Encourage Discussion - As children get older, talk about the pictures, read rhymes, explain what the words mean, identify objects, have fun with voices, have the child touch, turn the pages, and hold the book, with you and on his or her own. Ask questions about what is happening on the page and what the child thinks might happen.

Extend the Experience of the Story - Bring the characters into your life. If the monkeys are baking cookies, why not do the same? Explore and encourage making up stories based on the child's own experiences as well as those of the fictional characters.

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