Early language development: the first step to literacy

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In today’s fast-paced and highly competitive world, there is a lot of pressure for parents to enrol their child, earlier and earlier, into preschool and pre-kindergarten classes, and before they even enter kindergarten, to teach them the alphabet, numbers, and how to spell their name. Surprisingly, there are no studies as of yet to prove that if you learn to read in those early years, you’re going to have an advantage in school.

We do know, however, that language and social development in the early years lay the foundations for literacy skills and success as an adult.

We encourage you, the caregiver, to empower your little ones with the knowledge and skills to build the ‘scaffolding’ for their language, thinking, and social skills—which are essential for learning to read and write—rather than encouraging you to teach your toddlers to read.

Language development is the first step and the basis for literacy. By age three or four your child’s language ability will strongly predict their literacy skills and learning success throughout school and life.

With these facts in mind, we know that a child’s early environment and experiences significantly impact their language and literacy development. This learning begins at birth.

Infants instinctively respond to sounds and begin vocalizing. Children raised in nurturing, language-rich homes will develop better vocabularies and literacy skills; home environment plays a vital role in your child’s literacy learning. Parents and/or caregivers are the child’s first and best teachers! You are the expert and in the best position to teach and guide your child.

DSC_0006 (1)The bond between you and your child is fundamental in the child’s brain development. By exposing your child to vocabulary, rhythm, rhyme, and body language—through actions or active play—you are not only developing an amazing relationship with your child, you are creating brain pathways, connections, and brain development.

Repetition of rhymes and songs strengthen these pathways and connections. Additionally, you feel more confident and competent as you help in your child’s literacy and social development, resulting in being more actively involved with your child and your child’s learning.

As an added bonus, songs, rhymes, and actions are useful in reducing stressful or frustrating moments for toddlers (and for you), and also help to make smoother transitions between activities throughout the day.

Tips to get you started on your rhyme discovery path:

  1. Go back to basics. The songs that were your favourites as a child will also be enjoyable to your child, and believe it or not, are still children’s favourites today.
  2. Start with short, simple rhymes. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Wheels on the Bus are good examples.
  3. Most importantly… have fun with rhyming! There is no wrong way to sing, especially when you and your child are having fun and bonding!
  4. Optional: drop in to a Rhymes that Bind program and have fun learning rhymes and actions with your child

Here is a rhyme to get you started:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground.
Teddy Bear reach up high.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear say Good Bye.

To find an Edmonton Rhymes that Bind program near you, check out the Centre for Family Literacy website. We are excited to meet everyone and have fun singing!

 

How does Rhymes that Bind Support Literacy Development?

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The early literacy skills of children do not begin with reading and writing. The skills they need prior to reading and writing are listening, speaking, and understanding. All of these skills are practiced in the Rhymes that Bind program.

Rhymes are fun, and because of their simplicity, they can be done anywhere. The benefits are many. When hearing nursery rhymes, children hear how sounds are put together—vowels and consonants making words. They hear patterns in speech, pitch, volume, voice inflection, and a general rhythm to language. The sound is different when asking a question, telling a story, giving instructions, or singing a song. Children will hear words they don’t hear every day—in rhymes with animals, submarines, grandfather clocks, and food,  such as:

  • The grandfather clock goes, tick tock tick tock tick tock (slowly sway child back and forth)
  • The kitchen clock goes tictoctictoctictoctictoc (sway child faster)
  • And mommy’s little watch goes ticcaticcaticcaticcaticca (tickle tickle tickle)

Nursery rhymes are like stories with a fun rhythm. They are short and repetitive, and often have a beginning, middle, and end. This helps build memory skills for children when they are able to recall and retell a favourite rhyme, such as:

  • Three Little Pigs
  • Three Little Bears

Nursery rhymes often include early numeracy skills, using numbers to count forward and backward, such as:

  • 5 Green and Speckled Frogs
  • Zoom, Zoom
  • 10 In The Bed

Rhymes can also introduce children to some simple literacy rules without obvious intention, such as:

Alliteration:

  • Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers
  • She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

Onomatopoeia:

  • Old MacDonald’s Farm
  • Baa Baa Black sheep

10 reasons to enjoy sharing nursery rhymes with your children:

  1. When babies hear language it increases their comprehension or understanding; as a child’s vocabulary increases, so does their comprehension. Often present in nursery rhymes are words we don’t usually use in everyday conversation with small children
  2. Children attempt to duplicate the sounds they hear while practicing language. This is how their speech is developed. Babies who are read to will often hold a book and make babbling noises that represent reading aloud
  3. Older children will begin to rhyme nonsense sounds and words as they become better at speaking. If they have been exposed to nursery rhymes early, they have already begun to understand the rhythm and flow of language
  4. Babies develop speech by strengthening their mouth and tongue muscles when replicating the sounds they hear in a nursery rhyme
  5. Listening to stories, whether told or read from books, helps children understand that all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. As children gain verbal skills they will begin to tell their own stories. Many nursery rhymes are repetitive in nature, and often tell a little story
  6. Children will struggle later when learning how to write a story if they do not first learn how to tell a story
  7. Many nursery rhymes help with physical development in children. While rhyming,  some activities that develop fine motor skills are clapping, counting with fingers, and making simple gestures
  8. Large motor skills can also be developed while singing a rhyme when children are hopping, rolling, walking, and using their whole body in dramatic play
  9. Many rhymes involve touching and tickling your children. By touching, tickling, and laughing together, your bonds are strengthened, which increases learning capacity in children
  10. It is FUN!

If you would like more information about the Rhymes that Bind program or the program schedule, please check the Centre for Family Literacy website: http://www.famlit.ca/programs_and_projects/programs/rhymes.shtml