Having a background in child development, I find it easy to use every opportunity to promote reading, talking and using objects in the environment to teach literacy to my 4-year-old.

As parents, you don't have to break the bank to give your children experiences that will continue to benefit them throughout life.

As a child, I can remember my mom reading books every day all throughout the day. She had a rocking chair, and so did I. I would get my books and mimic my mother reading. As I grew up, my passion and desire to read grew as well. That’s simply because my mom created an environment for reading and set the example of how important reading was from the very beginning.

As parents, we are our children’s first teacher to developing good reading skills. I never saw reading as a chore. Reading was for joy and pleasure. This is how we want our children to feel about reading, because it will make academic achievement a success. Children will enjoy school work rather than dread it.

To promote young children's delight in talking, listening, reading and writing, adults need to provide a variety of interesting language experiences. Children who have reading difficulties in the primary grades often had limited early literacy learning experiences.

Children with reading difficulties have:

• less letter knowledge.

• less sensitivity to the notion that the sounds of speech are distinct from their meaning.

• less familiarity with the basic purpose and mechanisms of reading.

• poorer general language ability.

Children who are skilled readers:

• understand the alphabet and letters.

• use background knowledge and strategies to obtain meaning from print.

• can easily identify words and read fluently.

Activities that prepare young children for learning to read emphasize counting, number concepts, letter names, shapes, sounds, phonological and phonemic awareness, models of adult interest in literacy, and independent and cooperative literacy activities.

Key concepts in children's early literacy have been used since the very beginning of time as one of the most important ways to teach children:

• Phonological awareness: This is an appreciation of the sounds and meanings of spoken words. For example, a phonologically aware child can perceive and produce rhyming words, divide words into sounds and syllables and put them back together again (ladybug, butterfly), and recognize that groups of words have the same sound at the start (fish, frog, fruit), or the same sound at the end (dice, mice, ice).

• Phonemic awareness: This is an advanced form of phonological awareness. The awareness that printed symbols, such as letters, systematically represent the component sounds of the language. Children who demonstrate phonemic awareness recognize the sound-symbol relationship. Phonemic awareness allows children to sound out words.

Ways to promote early literacy:

• Be a model of literate behavior for your children. Write notes, keep a calendar and daily planner, post lists of food and household needs and children's responsibilities, introduce new vocabulary words during routine conversation and while reading, and subscribe to a local newspaper or magazines the entire family will enjoy.

• Discuss printed text, words and sounds as objects that can be thought about, manipulated, altered and explored. Sing songs, make up silly rhymes, read books, and play with words and sounds every day.

• Help children build and use their ever-growing vocabulary.

• Provide children with the tools of literate behavior — pens, pencils, markers, paper, envelopes, a stapler, paper clips, stamps, a dictionary, an atlas, magazines, catalogs, newspapers. Engage in daily literacy activities with your children, such as writing thank you notes, mail birthday cards, look for specific words in magazines, find exotic destinations in an atlas, write lists, read books or visit the library.

For more information, call your local county extension office at 453-6803 or call Jennifer Russell at 662-334-2669.

• Jennifer Russell is the county coordinator and a child and family development Extension agent for the Washington County MSU Extension Service Office in Greenville. You may contact her at 662-334-2669 or jtb20@msstate.edu.

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