During the first three years of their lives, children begin language and literacy development, and their exposure to books and stories is especially important. These experiences, combined with their interactions with adults, help influence their success when it comes to language, reading and writing development. Accordingly, it is important to take an interactive and experiential approach to these subjects.
However, early literacy does not equate to early reading, or promoting this approach in educational facilities. In fact, it is not appropriate to try to teach very young children, including infants and toddlers, actual reading and writing skills. It can discourage children who struggle with grasping these skills at such a young age from reading and writing in the future. Instead, the process should take a more organic, dynamic and gradual approach.
The curriculum during the first three years should make use of books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, learning words and even scribbling. These activities help children master the building blocks required for more advanced language and literacy development.
We have compiled a list of qualities that books should have, depending on the age of their audience:
Infants (0-6 months)
- Books featuring simple and large pictures or designs with bright colors.
- Cardboard books or ones that fold out, which can be propped up in the crib.
- Cloth and soft vinyl books that contain simple pictures of people or common objects.
Infants (6-12 months)
- Board books with photos of other babies and which feature bright colors.
- Books that include photos of familiar objects, such as balls and bottles.
- Books with sturdy pages that they—often with your assistance—can begin to turn.
- Small plastic photo albums with pictures of family and friends.
Young Toddlers (12-24 months)
- Board books made from sturdy materials, which they can carry.
- Books with photos of children taking part in regular routines, such as sleeping or playing with their friends, siblings or family pets.
- Books for nap time.
- Books teaching children salutations, such as saying hello and good-bye.
- Simple books, featuring only a few words on each page.
- Books that feature rhymes or predictable text.
- Animal books of all sizes and shapes.
Toddlers (2-3 years)
- Books featuring simple stories.
- Books that have rhymes children can easily memorize.
- Books about subjects such as counting, the alphabet, shapes and sizes.
- Books regarding certain themes, including animals, vehicles, playtime and sharing.
Though it may seem difficult, integrating literacy and language development exercises into your classroom can be simple. Dedicating a few minutes everyday to reading aloud is very beneficial to young children. Children often are only able to sit still for a few minutes, but as they grow older, their attention span improves. In addition, always make sure to do the following:
- Show children the cover page.
- Let children turn the pages.
- Talk about the pictures, and ask children questions about the story.
- You can ask children relevant questions about their own family, pets or favorite activities in order to draw connections between literature and real life.
For further information about implementing these activities into your classroom, you can refer to ProSolutions Training's, "Language & Literacy Package." Through this package, you will learn the key concepts behind how children acquire language, and how you can teach phonemic awareness skills to assist in literacy development. We also offer a CDA course and CDA renewal.