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Lifelong literacy starts at storytime. Early childhood educators, even those teaching preschool-aged children who cannot yet read for themselves, must use every tool of the trade to show students how powerful and fun reading can be - perhaps now more so than ever.
According to the latest readership survey from the Pew Research Center, 74% of Americans have read at least one book in the last year. With so many other types of media competing for our attention, the next generation of adult readers will continue to fall out of love with the written word unless educators of today do something about it.
And like we said, it all starts with storytime. What can early childhood educators do differently the next time they read aloud to engage with young listeners, help them develop good reading skills, and instill in them an appreciation of literature that lasts a lifetime?
1. Stock many different titles
After a long morning in the classroom, it's easy to pick any old book off the shelf for storytime. But even at an early age, students both want and need a diversity of titles. The world of literature is boundless, and your classroom reading must reflect that.
Take notice of your current picture book library. Are all genders and races represented well? Are girls or children of color ever main characters? Do enough books contain different types of clothing, families, neighborhoods, and even foods? If not, talk to your school librarian or school administrators on how best to fill those gaps in your picture book catalog.
2. Speak clearly
Teachers don't have to be excellent public speakers, but strong enunciation turns every storytime into an exercise in phonemic awareness - the ability to hear, recognize, and apply the sounds that constitute spoken words.
Slowing down and articulating every word, no matter how small or simple, will familiarize students with language and bolster their confidence as they learn to read aloud themselves. Also, pay careful attention to your accent. We all have them, some more pronounced than others. Dropped Rs or Ts may confuse listeners or mislead them in their journey to reading alone.
3. Ask questions
Reading is not a passive activity, in preschool, high school or beyond. After finishing a book, teachers should wrap up storytime with a few questions about the characters and the plot, perhaps even the central conflict and its resolution. Doing so hones critical thinking skills. As they read, educators should feel free to define any complex words so listeners can follow along.
Looking for ways to improve how you read in the classroom?
Sign up today for ProSolutions Training Language and Literacy courses. Some of our favorites include:
Children develop the skills necessary to learn to read. However, there is a core deficit that causes some young children problems in learning to read. That core deficit is in phonemic awareness. This course will provide participants with an understanding of phonemic awareness, how it develops in young children, and which phonemic awareness skills teachers should help young children acquire.
Teachers and parents can help young children be successful in school and in life by doing one thing each and every day... READ aloud to them! This course helps explain how regular reading activities actually promote development across three learning domains:
•Cognitive - problem solving and language development
•Social - interactions with others
•Emotional - how children feel about their self-worth