Are you working on the summer reading challenge with your 0 - 5-year-old kiddo? Sometimes people mention that many of the activities we recommend for little kids are not reading, and that bothers them. Early literacy, after all, must mean early reading, right? And while that does seem to make sense logically, early literacy is not early reading--rather it is preparing young children for reading so that when they're developmentally ready to read they have all the skills in place to hit the ground running. This is, in fact, the philosophy that fuels almost all of the programming and activities we plan for kids ages 0-5, and experts refer to these essential early literacy skills as the five practices--reading, singing, talking, playing, and writing.
Of course, reading books to your young children from birth is a very important thing to do with your kiddos. Reading books with your children helps them learn narrative structure (beginning, middle, and end), it helps them learn that the black marks on the page correspond to sounds and to stories, and it helps them to learn the way books work--where is the front, where is the back, which way is up and down, etc. Singing songs with your young children is important for getting kids ready to read because songs have more varied vocabulary words than typical speech, and because singing songs draws out the sounds and syllables in longer words more clearly than speaking does. Talking with your children, and letting them talk to you, is important because it introduces new vocabulary, helps children learn casual speech patterns, and it strengthens social relationships between you and your child. Listening to your young child talk--even babble--increases their confidence in their own ability to speak. Playing with your kids is important because it strengthens kids' imaginations and improves their understanding of narrative structure (beginning, middle, and end). And it's important to write with your kids because watching you write will increase your child's interest in writing, and allowing them to write--even if it's just scribbles at this stage--improves their fine motor skills.
One of the summer challenge activities for our youngest patrons is to get outside and draw with sidewalk chalk. This activity is great because it incorporates play and writing. And if you make up a story with your child as you draw, you're talking too! Throw in a song, and you've got four of the five early literacy practices covered in one activity! If you're feeling really ambitious, check out this list of picture books about fun things to do outdoors. Read it before or after you do sidewalk chalk, and you're winning at this parenting game!
Check out these fun picture books about all the cool outdoor stuff you can get up to in the summer time!