Another Voice: Building literacy begins at birth
By Anne Ryan
There is no time in life when the brain develops more rapidly than during a child’s first five years. From developing speech to getting a head start on literacy skills, the benefits of reading to your child from day one cannot be ignored. So while many parents are prepping their children for a new school year, new parents can and should start building the foundation for their infants’ and toddlers’ future learning today.
Research shows that with early exposure to literacy-rich environments from birth through the early years of development, all children, regardless of economic or social challenges, can reach their highest potential. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pediatric providers advise parents and caregivers of young children that reading aloud and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development and parent-child relationships.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that while the quantity of conversation is important – it is the quality of the conversation that helps young children’s brains develop. This concept forms the root of all of Read to Succeed Buffalo’s programming – simple, but expressive interactions and conversations between caregivers and the young children in their care is the foundation of language and literacy development.
Read to Succeed’s CARE Child Care is a school readiness program that begins a pipeline of aligned early learning opportunities, starting at birth, to increase exposure to language and literature-rich experiences for participating infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Early literacy intervention specialists assist child care providers in helping young children develop the communication skills that prepare them to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
Many of the concepts our specialists use can also be implemented at home by parents. Young children have a very short attention span, so parents and caregivers should make reading a fun and interactive experience that their child can enjoy. While reading to children, take the time to ask them questions about what the book is about or point out objects in the book’s illustrations to help teach them new vocabulary. When taking a walk with children, read signs or point out things they may be seeing for the first time.
For parents or caregivers who want to begin reading to their children, but aren’t sure where to start, check out our website at readtosucceedbuffalo.org for Vroom materials that provide conversation starters. And if you live in the 14207, 14210, 14213, 14214 or 14215 ZIP codes, register your infant or toddler for Imagination Library. Once registered, children will receive an age-appropriate, free book mailed to them every month until their fifth birthday. These beautiful books also have reading tips for parents included on the inside cover.
Just because your infant or toddler is not old enough to start school this fall, doesn’t mean he or she isn’t ready to start learning today.
Anne Ryan is executive director of Read to Succeed Buffalo, an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between early childhood and school age.