Betty - posted on 09/09/2010 ( 7 moms have responded )
MILFORD — Going through public school in the 1960s and 1970, in the small South Shore town where I grew up, was pretty uneventful. What I do remember about my schooling is that I learned to read with "Dick & Jane."
I grew up in a household of seven children, one of the oldest. None of us went to dance class, played team sports, or stayed after school for extra curricula activities. We were a team of seven - we played kick ball, roller skated, and tormented each other until my mother called us for supper.
Rainy days were a different story, though. We stayed inside and I got to be Miss Pattie, the kindergarten teacher. I had six students, two of which were always in the playpen sleeping. I remember the bottom drawer in the china cabinet full of crayons, markers, paper, pencils and all the school supplies a classroom needed. There were myriad Little Golden Books in the drawer, some had pages ripped out or torn, others were scribbled in by siblings who were attempting their first writing, and many of them had jelly or other food stains on them. I do not remember my parents reading to me, but I do remember my parents reading. My mother read the local newspaper and "Time" and "Look" magazines, and my father immersed himself in historical fiction novels. I am not sure they understood the significance of modeling good reading habits at the time, but I attribute my love of reading and my chosen vocation to my early home literacy experiences.
I begin this article sharing my childhood literacy experiences because the importance of developing a literate home environment cannot be overstated. Literacy development is a continuous process that begins in the home when infants are first introduced to language through stories, books, songs, and rhymes. Families can support language and literacy learning by creating a home atmosphere in which reading, writing, talking, and listening are a natural part of daily life. Parents should have frequent conversations with each child in the family and encourage everyone in the family to express their ideas, opinions, and feelings. Family time should consist of playing games that reinforce language and literacy skills. Scrabble, Concentration, Bingo, Candyland, I Spy, and puzzles are examples of games and activities that will motivate children to speak, think, and listen while having fun with the family.
Research shows that books are the key ingredient to creating a literacy-rich home environment. The amount of free reading done outside of school has consistently been found to relate to growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and critical thinking. Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not (Krashen 1993; Cunningham and Stanovich 1991).
Parents of our English language learners, who are not proficient in English, can support their children's literacy and language development by reading to them in their native language. A great website for ELL parents that offers suggestions for developing a literate home environment is www.colorincolorado.org/families.
If you are wondering if your home environment promotes literacy development, you can access a home literacy environment checklist at www.getreadytoread.org.