A popular question I find myself answering for friends and family is, “What can I do to help my little one be ready for school?” For me, it boils down to two things:
- Read to and with them.
- Talk to them.
Sure, there are social, motor, and behavioral skills to think about too. Everything else that can help them succeed at school tends to come organically from these two things. I can overload you with statistics, case studies, and other research, but this isn’t that kind of post. This is a momma to momma (or other caregiver), teacher to momma type of conversation. That number one, best thing you can do? It’s really simple – just read to them. Reading does not always mean sitting in a cozy spot reading a book. Reading can mean pointing out signs of places you frequent. Environmental print (words all around you) is a building block of reading readiness. You may notice that your little can recognize signs and symbols for stores, restaurants, and other brands. Chick-fil-a, Walmart, and Target are big ones in our house.
Other building blocks: holding a book correctly, connecting text to pictures, and understand reading is an enjoyable activity. All of these are “taught” by reading with your children. Part of our nightly routine is to read a book. I cannot lie, some nights we miss it. But books are everywhere in our house, so you better believe Genevieve has been read to (or “reads” to herself) at some point each and every day. I read in front of her. I model appropriate page turning, pointing at words, and even talking about what I’ve read. The impact of just 20 minutes of reading an day is ENORMOUS. I cannot stress that enough!
Those bajillion questions your kiddo(s) asks everyday – answer them, well most 😉 of them. Talking to your kids, even before they can return the favor, does wonders for vocabulary and speech development. All of that environmental print – connections to names and meanings are made when you talk about where you are going and what you are doing. At the grocery store? Talk about what items you are getting and what you may use them for. Heading on a road trip? Talk about where you’re going and point out road signs that help guide your way. You can hear me often say to my cooing, six month old, “Tell me about it. Tell me a story.” I egg her on with more questions as if she is answering with more than her giggles and velociraptor shrieks. I establish with her the relationship between meaning and the sounds she makes. All sorts of wonderful brain connections are being made during these exchanges. Plus, it’s super cute! The more you talk to them, the more likely they are so succeed academically later in life.
I’ll post another time with all those facts, research, and resources – as well as suggested books and ways you can make the most out of all of those questions!