I am a firm believer in nurturing early literacy behaviors, or book behaviors.
Penelope is almost 2 1/2 and spends a significant amount of time each day “reading” books. She cannot yet decode text, but if you were to interrupt and ask what she is doing she would say, “I reading.” People tend to confuse the concepts of early literacy and early reading. I see parents fretting over teaching their children to read before kindergarten. Be clear: formal reading and writing instruction for toddlers and infants is not developmentally appropriate. Instead, what you should be emphasizing are book behaviors.
Reading, writing, and oral language develop out of strong book behaviors. Here are 4 simple book behaviors you should aim to actively foster in your toddler.
- Handling Books: Behaviors related to physically holding the book. Is the book facing the right direction? Does your little one know to turn pages from left to right?
- Noticing Pictures: Behaviors related to examining the pictures. Does your little one point at pictures and say what she sees? Does she interact with the pictures, perhaps by laughing?
- Comprehension: Behaviors demonstrating an understanding of the picture and an event in the book. For example, Penelope recently started pointing to pictures of characters and saying things like, “Monkey sad!” Indeed, the monkey was sad because he wanted a hug from his mommy (we were reading Jez Alborough’s Hug).
- “Reading” Books: Behaviors that include the imitation of adult reading habits, a deeper understanding of print in books (maybe even recognition of certain words like mommy, boom, dada), babbling as if reading the book aloud, and tracking printed words with fingers.
Remember to make sharing books part of every day, but most importantly, remember to have fun!