Toddlers
First Steps Toward Reading


Emergent Literacy

By the age of two, most toddlers learn the meaning of eight new words a day. Your toddler will be using some action words (jump, go), directional words (up, down, in, out) and will be using "you" and "me" proficiently. Next, she will begin combining these words to form short, two-word sentences ("Ball go." "Frog hop."). Toddlers speak in two word sentences for several months, rapidly building vocabularies, then suddenly begin stringing three, four and more words together. These sentences often have correct word order, but lack the smaller function words ("Daddy drive car." "Mommy go bye-bye." "Baby cookie all gone."). Before long, toddlers start adding bits of grammar such as verb endings (-ing), prepositions (on, in), and plurals (-s), possessive endings ('s) and articles (a, the).

Help prepare your toddler to read by developing these skills

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words. Nursery rhymes are an ideal way for children to hear the smaller sound units within words. Many nursery rhymes can be set to music, using different notes for each syllable. Sing them slow, sing them fast and be sure to clap out the syllables to help your toddler break down words in a fun way. Good rhymes to try include Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Eensy Weensy Spider and Little Miss Muffet.

Letter knowledge includes learning that one letter is distinct from another, that each letter has its own name and unique sound. Most children use the letters in their name as the foundation for letter recognition and writing. To help your toddler learn about letters, start with his first name. Help him hear the sound of his name, listening particularly for the starting sound. Write his name in capital letters and teach him to see it and to recognize it. If this is too difficult, have him concentrate on the first letter of his name. Develop letter knowledge by reading alphabet books, singing the alphabet song and playing alphabet games (look for letters on signs, in books or magazines.). Use clay to form letter shapes and show your toddler how the shapes can be turned into letters. As your child shows interest in drawing, ask her to transform capital letters into pictures. Letter-drawing games help children begin to recognize the various curves and contours that distinguish "As" from "Vs" and "Cs" from "Ds".

Print awareness includes learning that written English follows basic rules such as writing from top to bottom and left to right. When you read with your toddler, encourage her to turn the pages for you. Use your index finger, or her finger, to follow the words as you read, pointing to the print. If a story has a word or refrain that repeats, and your child knows the story well, point to the word or line and let your child supply the words so that you are reading the story together. Read books again and again so that your child learns the story so well that she can pretend read it back to you. Point out print wherever you go. In the grocery store, encourage your toddler to help find a favorite cereal or cookie brand by "reading" the print on the box. Encourage your toddler to help locate a favorite restaurant or toy store by watching for the signs. Show excitement and enthusiasm when your child helps you read the signs correctly.

Comprehension

Toddlers must be able to understand the stories that are read to them. You can encourage comprehension by asking your child questions when you read together and by encouraging him to expand on his thoughts and feelings about the book. Toddlers who talk about the illustrations, characters, settings, actions and other aspects of books accelerate the development of their narrative skills as well as their reading comprehension. Make sure your toddler understands that all stories have a beginning, middle and end. Ask him to look at a book's cover and make predictions about what might end. Be sure to discuss new vocabulary words to further his reading comprehension. By talking with your toddler about events and experiences that have happened, and asking him to retell them to you, he further develops narrative abilities and comprehension, which will contribute to reading success.

In the grocery store, encourage your toddler to help find a favorite cereal or cookie brand by "reading" the print on the box.

For more suggestions and activities on Raising a Reader, follow our Grow Up Reading™ Board on Pinterest

Library Director:  Clara Nalli Bohrer    |    Youth Services Coordinator:  Jill Bickford    |    Early Childhood Specialist:  Emily Vickers

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