Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge.  Print Awareness: This is the understanding that print represents spoken language and can convey meaning. There are many things you can do to help foster this awareness even in very young children. These activities can be naturally embedded in your daily routines with little effort on your part.  When reading books with your child, point to the individual words as you read them. Show your child labels on packages such as cereal boxes, paper towels, or shampoo bottles. "Oh, look, this is the plain Cheerios, and this is the Honey Nut Cheerios," while pointing to individual words. Or, "look, this is the baby shampoo that doesn't sting your eyes."  When walking outside with your child, point out various street signs and shop signs. "Look, Yaakov, see where it says Ice Cream House?" Another excellent way to encourage print awareness is by labeling items with individual family members' names. Children as young as 2 or 3 years old can recognize their own or even siblings' names written on toothbrushes, toys, or other personal possessions. Letter Knowledge: This is the simple knowledge of the names of the alphabet or aleph bais. There are many age-appropriate ways to encourage a child's development of letter knowledge. Early and consistent exposure is important.  There are a wealth of toys and materials out there that can help, including blocks for infants, aleph bais Clics, letter tiles, flash cards, memory games, electronic games... the possibilities are endless. Don't push these on your child. Take his/her lead. If possible, sit down and play with your child, and try to label the alphabet in a relaxed and playful manner. Other ways of exposing your child to the alphabet include singing the alphabet or aleph bais songs and hanging posters of the alphabet around the house. Phonological Awareness: This is the knowledge and awareness that spoken - not written - language is made up of individual sounds. Print, or the alphabet, is what represents these individual sounds called phonemes. Phonological awareness is one of the key predictors and prerequisites of early reading success. A child must first understand that a word is made up of sounds before he/she can use letters to actually represent those sounds.  In other words, a child must be able to understand that the word 'shop' is made up of 3 individual sounds, /sh/ /o/ /p/, in order to then be able to read or spell that word. Phonological awareness skills begin at the word level (how many words to you hear in this sentence?), move on to syllables, rhyming, and finally isolating and manipulating individual sounds in spoken words. There are many age-appropriate and fun ways to enhance early phonological awareness skills. Beginning at the word level, you can encourage your child to count how many words they hear in a sentence, or to clap, stamp, or bang on the table once for each word heard in a sentence. Similar activities can be done for syllable counting with older kids. Kids of all ages enjoy rhymes. Sing songs, read rhyming books, make up silly rhymes (We're going to the park/ We'll be back before dark/ Let's go run and play/ The entire day), and encourage children to supply the missing word in a rhyme. (Who wants to play a game?/A different one, not the ____.") Silly word activities can also be done with initial sounds in words "The big blue ball bounced by the brown broken board". Tongue twisters are another great way of playing with phonological awareness skills in a fun way. Your child will love engaging in these word games with you. Vocabulary: A large, well developed vocabulary is vital to a child's reading success. The more words a child knows, the more equipped he/she will be when encountering a new word in a book or elsewhere in his/her environment. Vocabulary can aid in the decoding of a longer word, and will support the crucial comprehension that is necessary for fluent and meaningful reading. A child's early vocabulary and language development is heavily dependent on parents. It is up to you to encourage a strong and robust vocabulary. How can you do this? Talk to your child! Do this from early infancy on, through the toddler and early childhood years. Limit baby talk. Describe, using clear words and full sentences, what you are doing with and for your child throughout daily routines. Use appropriate words when engaging with your child. Instead of saying "doggie" for a small animal, use the correct term such as 'raccoon' or even 'poodle'. Say "I'm feeling frustrated" and "You're disappointed" instead of "I'm angry" and "You're sad". A young child has almost limitless potential for language! They more words your child is exposed to, the larger and more varied his/her vocabulary will be. Also very important, read to your child! Books are excellent vehicle for introducing new words and concepts to young children, and provide invaluable opportunities for parents to scaffold the development of new ideas and information. Background Knowledge: Similar to vocabulary, a child's prior knowledge has a huge impact on their future reading success. A child with rich funds of information, also called schema, already has a wide base onto which to build further learning. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for him/her to add on more information. Knowledge begets knowledge. And a curious child is a child who reads. How can we build background knowledge? Again, talk to your child. About your day, about the incident you saw together in the street, about current events. Discuss upcoming holidays and special occasions. Point out local news and schedules such as alternate side parking or grand openings of shops or community programs. Explain the sequence of events of davening in shul.  Keep your child in the loop. All this can be done in an age-appropriate manner. Another excellent way of building schema is by taking trips. These do not need to be costly. A new experience of any kind provides a wonderful opportunity to expand a child's world and knowledge base, especially when guided by an adult. A trip to the waterfront can teach a child about fishing or shipping. A trip to a garden can teach a child about birds and flowers. A trip to a car mechanic can teach a child about cars! When possible, take trips to museums and zoos that offer a wealth of information to expand a child's schema. And, of course, an excellent way of increasing a child's funds of information is by reading to him/her. Books provide endless sources of new information, especially when shared with a beloved adult.
We as parents are our children's first teachers, and likely their most influential ones as well.
We have infinite opportunities and a power unlike any other educator our children will encounter. Hopefully, we can support their early reading skills and help pave the way to a lifetime of learning."/>
Encore Support Services

Our therapists answer your child development questions

lets-talk

Q

How can I foster the development of early reading skills in my young children?

I know how important reading skills are to my child's success in school and in life. Is there anything I as a parent can do to support the development of my child's early reading skills?

A

Answered by

Chaya Knopfler, MSEd

You are absolutely correct that reading skills are key to a child’s success in school. Literacy is likely the single biggest factor influencing an individual’s academic success and achievement in adulthood. It is no surprise that that many of the poorest nations in the world are those with the lowest literacy rates. In the U.S., low literacy rates are strongly correlated with poverty, juvenile delinquency, crime, and incarceration.  Reading unlocks doors and creates infinite opportunities.

Literacy is especially important in our culture. Reading is crucial to function as a frum  Jew. A child who cannot read cannot daven, say Tehillim, learn Chumash, Mishnayos, Gemara, or any other religious subject. Reading is intimately connected to our way of life, and the pain of a child who struggles with literacy is immeasurable. Such children are at risk of feeling like outsiders, unable to participate in the basic rites of our society.

Happily, there is much you as a parent can do to enable your child’s success. You do not need to be a professional. With some basic knowledge and awareness, you can empower your child and lay the groundwork for his or her success. There is so much you can do to teach your child, far before he/she ever steps foot in school! Reading development begins way before a child even reaches preschool.

First and most important: make reading fun! The more positive associations your child has with reading, the more likely he/she is to view it as something rewarding and enjoyable rather than a chore.  Create positive rituals and memories with books and reading. An excellent and obvious place to start is with bedtime stories. Try to make the experience as relaxing and cozy as possible. Sit close to your child or with him/her on your lap. Rather than rush through the text, take the time to talk about the pictures and discuss the feelings of the characters. Ask your child to guess what happens next, and invite him/her to read along with predictable text. Use a natural speaking voice instead of a stilted singsong, and make it even more fun by assuming different silly voices for various characters in the story. Your child will look forward to bedtime as the highlight of his/her day.

There are many other ways of creating positive memories with reading. Surround your child with books starting in infancy. Even if your baby uses books mainly as teething toys, the exposure to the bright colors and pictures will lead to an increased interest in books as he/she develops. Begin with picture books, and gradually introduce books with varied characters and storylines. Use books and magazines as rewards and incentives. Make a trip to the library an exciting family event. Purchase or borrow books the family can enjoy together, such as books written in cartoon format, or books like “Yiddishe Kop.” The most important thing to remember is that your child should enjoy it! A child with a love for reading will be a future reader.

Having set the stage for enthusiasm for reading, there are also many things parents can do to help their child develop individual skills necessary for literacy. Early literacy can generally be broken down to 5 components, which will be listed individually along with tips on how to facilitate their development. These components are:  Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Vocabulary, and Background Knowledge.

 Print Awareness:

This is the understanding that print represents spoken language and can convey meaning. There are many things you can do to help foster this awareness even in very young children. These activities can be naturally embedded in your daily routines with little effort on your part.  When reading books with your child, point to the individual words as you read them. Show your child labels on packages such as cereal boxes, paper towels, or shampoo bottles. “Oh, look, this is the plain Cheerios, and this is the Honey Nut Cheerios,” while pointing to individual words. Or, “look, this is the baby shampoo that doesn’t sting your eyes.”  When walking outside with your child, point out various street signs and shop signs. “Look, Yaakov, see where it says Ice Cream House?” Another excellent way to encourage print awareness is by labeling items with individual family members’ names. Children as young as 2 or 3 years old can recognize their own or even siblings’ names written on toothbrushes, toys, or other personal possessions.

Letter Knowledge:

This is the simple knowledge of the names of the alphabet or aleph bais. There are many age-appropriate ways to encourage a child’s development of letter knowledge. Early and consistent exposure is important.  There are a wealth of toys and materials out there that can help, including blocks for infants, aleph bais Clics, letter tiles, flash cards, memory games, electronic games… the possibilities are endless. Don’t push these on your child. Take his/her lead. If possible, sit down and play with your child, and try to label the alphabet in a relaxed and playful manner. Other ways of exposing your child to the alphabet include singing the alphabet or aleph bais songs and hanging posters of the alphabet around the house.

Phonological Awareness:

This is the knowledge and awareness that spoken – not written – language is made up of individual sounds. Print, or the alphabet, is what represents these individual sounds called phonemes. Phonological awareness is one of the key predictors and prerequisites of early reading success. A child must first understand that a word is made up of sounds before he/she can use letters to actually represent those sounds.  In other words, a child must be able to understand that the word ‘shop’ is made up of 3 individual sounds, /sh/ /o/ /p/, in order to then be able to read or spell that word. Phonological awareness skills begin at the word level (how many words to you hear in this sentence?), move on to syllables, rhyming, and finally isolating and manipulating individual sounds in spoken words.

There are many age-appropriate and fun ways to enhance early phonological awareness skills. Beginning at the word level, you can encourage your child to count how many words they hear in a sentence, or to clap, stamp, or bang on the table once for each word heard in a sentence. Similar activities can be done for syllable counting with older kids.

Kids of all ages enjoy rhymes. Sing songs, read rhyming books, make up silly rhymes (We’re going to the park/ We’ll be back before dark/ Let’s go run and play/ The entire day), and encourage children to supply the missing word in a rhyme. (Who wants to play a game?/A different one, not the ____.”) Silly word activities can also be done with initial sounds in words “The big blue ball bounced by the brown broken board”. Tongue twisters are another great way of playing with phonological awareness skills in a fun way. Your child will love engaging in these word games with you.

Vocabulary:

A large, well developed vocabulary is vital to a child’s reading success. The more words a child knows, the more equipped he/she will be when encountering a new word in a book or elsewhere in his/her environment. Vocabulary can aid in the decoding of a longer word, and will support the crucial comprehension that is necessary for fluent and meaningful reading.

A child’s early vocabulary and language development is heavily dependent on parents. It is up to you to encourage a strong and robust vocabulary. How can you do this? Talk to your child! Do this from early infancy on, through the toddler and early childhood years. Limit baby talk. Describe, using clear words and full sentences, what you are doing with and for your child throughout daily routines. Use appropriate words when engaging with your child. Instead of saying “doggie” for a small animal, use the correct term such as ‘raccoon’ or even ‘poodle’. Say “I’m feeling frustrated” and “You’re disappointed” instead of “I’m angry” and “You’re sad”. A young child has almost limitless potential for language! They more words your child is exposed to, the larger and more varied his/her vocabulary will be.

Also very important, read to your child! Books are excellent vehicle for introducing new words and concepts to young children, and provide invaluable opportunities for parents to scaffold the development of new ideas and information.

Background Knowledge:

Similar to vocabulary, a child’s prior knowledge has a huge impact on their future reading success. A child with rich funds of information, also called schema, already has a wide base onto which to build further learning. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for him/her to add on more information. Knowledge begets knowledge. And a curious child is a child who reads.

How can we build background knowledge? Again, talk to your child. About your day, about the incident you saw together in the street, about current events. Discuss upcoming holidays and special occasions. Point out local news and schedules such as alternate side parking or grand openings of shops or community programs. Explain the sequence of events of davening in shul.  Keep your child in the loop. All this can be done in an age-appropriate manner.

Another excellent way of building schema is by taking trips. These do not need to be costly. A new experience of any kind provides a wonderful opportunity to expand a child’s world and knowledge base, especially when guided by an adult. A trip to the waterfront can teach a child about fishing or shipping. A trip to a garden can teach a child about birds and flowers. A trip to a car mechanic can teach a child about cars! When possible, take trips to museums and zoos that offer a wealth of information to expand a child’s schema.

And, of course, an excellent way of increasing a child’s funds of information is by reading to him/her. Books provide endless sources of new information, especially when shared with a beloved adult.

We as parents are our children’s first teachers, and likely their most influential ones as well.

We have infinite opportunities and a power unlike any other educator our children will encounter. Hopefully, we can support their early reading skills and help pave the way to a lifetime of learning.

Recent Questions

Encore Services

Special Ed

  • Behavior Modification DIR/Floortime™

  • Social Skills & Social Thinking

  • Speech-Language Therapies

  • Multi-Sensory Math & Reading Instruction

  • Brain Gym™ & Physio-neurotherapy

  • Hebrew Reading Skill (Kriah) Training

  • Hands-On Music Therapy

  • Neuropsychological, Nutritional & Behavioral Evaluations

learn more

Encore ABA

  • Behavior Modification DIR/Floortime™

  • Social Skills & Social Thinkin

    g
  • Speech-Language Therapies

  • Multi-Sensory Math & Reading Instruction

  • Brain Gym™ & Physio-neurotherapy

  • Hebrew Reading Skill (Kriah) Training

  • Hands-On Music Therapy

  • Neuropsychological, Nutritional & Behavioral Evaluations

learn more

    Submit a Question

    Have a question? Please send us your
    concern and get answer questions right away.



    Each week, Ami Magazine features a “Let's Talk” post, with a question or inquiry commonly posed by Encore parents.

    Here is the response from one of our Encore Therapists.

    Let us know what you think!