Every Child Needs a Literacy Blanket
Early literacy events should be joyful, cozy, and result in a child feeling special. Literacy learning starts long before educators greet your child at the day care, pre-school or kindergarten door. It begins when your child is comfortably nestled in the in the crook of your arm, while sharing a book. This precious book time is when literacy learning begins and because the event feels cozy and comfortable, I often think of it resembles a favourite blanket.
|Photo taken from: http://coastsalishweaving.com/gallery/|
The Coast Salish are famous for their weaving skills . They create a blanket that is strong, unique and functional. I would like to invite you to create a “Literacy Blanket” for your child. This Literacy Blanket will offer life-long use and function through all future learning paths. Special people in a child’s life: caring parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle, or loving friend of the family, can participate in the process of weaving a precious “Literacy Blanket” for the special child in their lives. Just as the Coast Salish weavers use strong strands or threads to create their beautiful blankets, you and the important people in your child’s life will use strong strands. I would like to introduce three of the most important strands that are needed to create a Literacy Blanket that is strong and serviceable.
The Three Most Important Foundation Threads
The first important strand in creating the Literacy Blanket is creating a Literacy Relationship
No literacy “program” exists that replaces caring literacy coaches in a child’s life. The relationship fostered between book, child, and caring adults; leads to children reading for the sheer joy of it. Most importantly, it prevents reading failure. Our most practical and effective opportunity for creating self-motivated independent readers is for caring adults to read to children every day.
Three stories a day... that is the way!
Parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, elders, family friends and community members must act as literacy coaches for our young readers. We know that starting out right is important. Children begin their literacy journey while they are still very young. Parents and other literacy mentors help children develop language and literacy skills by taking the time to have conversations with children and provide a sense of coziness and safety when they read aloud with the very young child. The literacy coaches search for books that are of particular interest to the child. They cherish and celebrate established favourite stories and are playful when it comes to enjoying rhythm and rhymes found in poems for the very young. Caring adults playfully point out letters on street signs and make a big fuss about how special their name looks in print. They find books that are visually pleasing and culturally relevant.
The caring adults in a child’s early years, take time for “grand conversations” that naturally bubble up from the reading experience. This means that literacy coaches take advantage of a picture in a book that sparks a comment from a young child. The adult takes the time to make a short response and then waits for the child to share more. This is called “turn-taking” and it is a very important learning strategy.
The vehicle for fostering and nourishing this important relationship is the Read-a-Loud. Before a child can have an interest in reading, he must first have an awareness of it. Caring adults make sure children are bathed in good books. This is how the legacy of literacy is passed on. Our most practical and effective opportunity for creating self-motivated independent readers is to read to children every day. We always say, “Three books a day; that’s the minimum, not the maximum!”
The second important thread in your child’s literacy blanket involves helping the very young understand how print works.
When adults help children understand the concepts about print by providing clear examples; they lay the foundation for future success with reading. Understanding the concepts about print is a long, gradual process. It is similar to learning to talk, because we accept and celebrate successful attempts. However, learning how print works is different from learning how to talk or walk. It must be explicitly taught. Using books that are right at the child’s interest and at their level of understanding helps the child practice using left to write sweeps, pay attention to the sequence of letters in a word and how to “read” the spaces.
However, quality instruction with text-leveled material is not enough. Educators must also pay attention to the interests and strengths of each reader because high interest in a topic enhances comprehension. Making meaning from black squiggly lines is complex. Quality teaching is essential. Every minute with a capable and caring educator is precious.
The third thread that must be present for a strong literacy blanket is about extending and building language skills and general knowledge about a wide range of topics by providing lots of reading materials.
The third important strand is called the “Oral language and Book Language” thread
Vocabulary development and background knowledge about topics and social emotional understandings increase with high-volume reading. Book language is often different from the language we use in general conversations. The language found in books is often more complex; unfamiliar syntax and vocabulary is encountered. Children benefit when caring adults provide a diverse selection of texts from which to choose. The texts should be culturally relevant and tap the unique strengths and gifts of the child. Even the very young, enjoy and learn from literature that presents characters similar to themselves. Children learn ways of addressing fears, challenges and are able to face real life issues through knowing a character in good story. The most important factor in preventing “aliteracy” (individual who can read the words but are unable to read with comprehension and those who choose not to read) is inspiring the child’s motivation to read. When students choose to read a lot, vocabulary and background knowledge increases. Lots of reading is the best way to prevent reading failure. We get better at reading when we are interested and care about the topic. High volume of reading results in a strong reader!
The Building Literacy Foundations Continuum is an informal “Assessment FOR Learning strategy”. The continuum reflects levels of literacy development... When young children see their learning strengths, they are motivated to set reachable goals. Use a specific colour for each date as you highlight the skills or learning opportunities that are mastered. The adult literacy coaches and the child walk together. This continuum looks at adult’s coaching/mentorship role and the child’s literacy achievements. Young readers and the caring adults dedicated to passing on the legacy of literacy will each have a unique learning continuum. Don’t forget to celebrate the journey. Together we can weave this important Literacy Blanket. When a child is wrapped in his or her own unique literacy blanket, he will grow up with a life-long love for reading and learning.
Donna Klockars, aka The Literacy Lady
“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” Pablo Casals