• By Sharon Kelly
    Youth and public services librarian

    Posted Jun. 2, 2015 at 5:13 PM

    Parenting – it’s said, “is the toughest job you will ever love!” From the moment children are born, the age old process of worrying begins. Are they eating enough? Are they getting enough sleep? Are they developing normally? Will they be ready for school? These are all valid and important concerns, some of them easier than others to overcome, but when it comes to early literacy and helping children get ready to read, we at the library are here to help.

    Last week, York Public Library hosted Shannon Schinagl, Maine State Library’s new Early Literacy Consultant, for an interactive presentation on early literacy. This workshop brought librarians, teachers and daycare providers together for an informative session about what all of us, including parents and caregivers, can do to help every child get ready to read. After all, the cornerstone to early literacy is what children learn about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write. Schinagl broke this process down into six easy steps, with FUN as the main focus! Here is what she recommends.

    Step one: Print Motivation, which is best thought of as a child’s interest in and enjoyment of books. This can be as simple as reading to your child, or having them tell you about a book you have read together. Make books part of play time – keep books in the toy box!

    Step two: Print Awareness, is knowing how a book works and how to follow the words on the page. Let your child turn the pages themselves when you are reading together or occasionally follow the words in the story with your finger. Words are everywhere and you can make a game of it by pointing out letters on signs and cereal boxes.

    Step three: Letter knowledge, ties right into the two previous steps. Letter knowledge is knowing that each letter is different from each other, they make different sounds and have different names. Help your child learn this by reading ABC books that have plots with them or practicing writing their names or playing together with toy letters.

    Step four: Vocabulary, which is so important in providing children with the words they need to describe their world, their feelings and their questions. Talk and read to your child, using a variety of words and don’t be afraid to use your home language if you’re not a native English speaker. For young children the importance is on growing vocabulary, not necessarily learning English words. Children’s literature is designed to introduce new vocabulary in a fun and meaningful way. Older books and stories are particularly rich in introducing new words and concepts.

    Step five: Narrative skills, are the ability of a child to understand and tell stories, and describe things in their world. Tell your child stories – real or make believe. Ask them questions and wait for the answer. Always encourage babbling – it’s a baby’s way of talking.

    Step six: Phonological Awareness, is the ability to learn that words are made up of smaller parts. This why librarians and teachers sing songs, read poems and tell rhyming stories over, and over, and over again. We promise there is a reason for it beyond driving you crazy. Repetition works.

    So you can see how important your role is in helping your child get ready to read. Spend time reading together, talking together and most importantly, taking many trips to the library together. We have books and we are here to help! Children’s Librarian Kathleen Whalin and myself, Sharon Kelly, are always happy to recommend books and answer your questions. If you want more information on this topic- Shannon will be back at the library on September 29 for a full-day workshop titled “Story Time Success.” This workshop is designed for those who are preparing to do story times, or have just started presenting story times. The group will work with Schinagl to talk about why story time is important, practice story time elements, and use story time resources. All early childhood professionals are welcome: library staff, preschool teachers, childcare providers, volunteers, and others.