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How Families Foster Literacy at Home

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  • 0:00 Education at Home
  • 0:59 Emergent Literacy
  • 2:14 Evaluating Emergent Literacy
  • 3:18 Developing Literacy
  • 4:33 Evaluating Literacy
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, we''ll examine the ways that parents and families can foster emergent and developing literacy skills within the home. Discover techniques and tools for evaluation, and then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Education at Home

Where does education take place? An obvious answer is in the school, however, an alternative answer could be…everywhere else. Yes, we are formally educated within a school system, but the majority of things we learn are actually from our daily experiences. This is especially true of young children. Seriously, these little rugrats are so full of curiosity that they absorb practically anything that passes by. So, if we want our kids to do well in school, to learn all they can learn, and become academically successful, the first step is to ensure that the home is a place of learning. Studies have shown that children who practice literacy, textual communication, at home are much more likely to excel in reading and writing at school. So, how can we foster literacy at home? Well, let's take a look.

Emergent Literacy

Reading and writing skills actually begin at an early age, in the stage of development researchers call emergent literacy, or the development of skills required for future literacy. In this stage, generally between ages two and five, we're not focused on teaching children to read and write but instead to develop familiarity with the concept of written words, the names of letters, and basic sounds within a language.

So, how can we foster emergent literacy at home? One of the best solutions is family reading. Reading aloud with children helps promote an interest in books, familiarizes children with the appearance of letters, and introduces new vocabulary that the family may not generally use. While reading with toddlers, ask them to predict where the story is going, what will happen next, etc. as a way to build up reading comprehension. Another strategy that actually helps a lot is storytelling. Even without reading or writing at all, taking time to share stories as a family helps children understand the ways that sentences and ideas connect together along a central theme, which is critical for developing literacy skills later on.

Evaluating Emergent Literacy

When trying to foster emergent literacy at home, parents should be aware of ways to evaluate whether or not this is working. Here are a few questions to ask. Can the child retell a story by looking at pictures? This demonstrates familiarity with the concept of storytelling and developing memory skills. Can the child predict what will happen next? Again, this shows the comprehension required for developing full literacy. Can the child identify most of the letters of the alphabet? Familiarity with letters, even without a full knowledge of how to use them, is a great sign that the child is developing literacy skills. Other things, like the ability to recite nursery rhymes from memory or even pretending to read by memorizing the story, also show developing cognitive skills. This is what we're shooting for at this stage, and reading to the child, telling stories, reciting poems or songs, and even pointing out words on stop signs or at the store all help encourage these skills.

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