My picture is a little misleading, because early literacy doesn’t mean teaching babies to read. (I just love this old picture of Miss H!) Early literacy is preparing children for reading through activities that develop their vocabulary and their understanding of the presence and purpose of texts in our lives.
I mentioned recently how the Whole Language method, which was popular in the 80’s and 90’s, aligns closely with Charlotte Mason’s vision for early education. Children are taught authentic purposes for reading and writing, and the love of reading is cultivated. They learn letter sounds in context, rather than as the first step to reading.
Language development is one of the earliest things parents can do to help their baby’s future literacy. How could a child understand books without a strong vocabulary? Showing how we use reading in our daily lives, and helping children focus on the sounds in language are also important. Here are some activities that you can do with your baby or toddler to encourage early literacy skills.
Read fiction and nonfiction texts (living texts are best!)
Role play real-life activities, like going to a restaurant or store
Describe what you see in descriptive language
Use synonyms for everyday words
Search for items in a picture
Play a board game
The Purpose of Reading in Our Lives
Visit the library
Post pictures with words in their play space
Read signs while driving, shopping, etc.
Make a grocery list with pictures for your child to use at the store
Cook together by following a recipe
Encourage scribble “writing”
Make a card for someone
Sounds Make Up Language
Sing a song
Read nursery rhymes, emphasizing the rhyming words
Play rhyming games, like The Name Game (and use the Name Game Generator if you get stuck. Who thinks of this stuff?!)
Emphasize the first sound of a word (p-p-p-play)
Of course, not all of these activities will work with babies. My little guy sure likes to try to eat all the pieces to his sister’s board games! When you’re ready to move onto letters and their sounds, see my post about teaching the alphabet through play here.