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Family Literacy

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Dad reading with children

Who taught you the meaning of words?  Who helped you learn to read?  Did your parents or an older sibling read to you when you were younger? 

What is Family literacy?

Within the family system, parents are a child’s first and most important teachers. Even before a child is born, she will begin to respond to sounds. Making sense of sounds, where they come from and recognition of the tone of a voice are the most basic building blocks to literacy. How speech and sounds connect to printed words and comprehension (making meaning), and understanding printed words is what being literate means. Whether unprompted or promoted by formal programs, family literacy is the process of incorporating spoken and written word into meaningful activities within the family unit. According to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), literacy is the root of a person’s ability to succeed and family is at the heart.

Think about all you learn in the first years of your life. Education begins at home in the first years of a child’s life. Being interested and involved in your child’s development is one key way to ensure that you are preparing your child to enter school ready to learn. Our attitude towards reading as parents has a profound impact on our children. Children who have a lot of exposure to books and many experiences being read to from infancy develop the important basic skills to support learning.

Have you noticed how intently a baby stares at light and dark patterns with high contrast? By looking around and staring at interesting things, a baby is completing the connections in the vision centers of his brain necessary for good visual discrimination. When a toddler turns the pages of a board book, or a preschooler recognizes the first letter of his name on a cereal box, each is demonstrating emerging literacy skills. Reading to your child from birth is the best way to make him/her a successful reader. Researchers say that a child must have thousands of experiences with print and listening to words being read to prepare them to read themselves.

Family literacy is based upon the simple, but powerful premise that parents and children learn best when learning together. Research shows that young children’s experience with emergent literacy generally occurs within normal daily routines. Unlike learning to talk, children are not born with the instinct to read. Reading must be intentionally learned. Share lots of conversations and read to your child each day. When your child begins to read, listen to them read to you everyday.

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