Monday, June 18th, 2012
Learning to read in the preschool years sets up a critical foundation for later literacy and learning. While we all know that it’s important to read to our kids, research continues to identify specific ways that we read that advance reading skills in the early years. And a study recently published in Child Development provides really strong evidence that there is a simple thing you can do when you are reading to your toddler that can have a big effect on their later reading ability – simply using your voice and your fingers to draw attention to the printed page.
Here’s what the study did. They compared (in over 80 preschools) teachers’ typical book reading style (which often involves just reading aloud) to a teaching style (“print referencing”) that emphasized getting a 4-year-old to focus directly on the printed page. Half the teachers were trained to do this both by using words (“Let’s look at the top of this page!”; “Can you find the letter K on this page?”) and by pointing (“Here’s the word ‘the’ – we are going to see it a lot in this story!”; “Here’s a capital M.”). Teachers in both conditions (the usual reading style vs. the print referencing style) were videotaped to document that they were using different styles.
The results? Over a two year period, the toddlers who were exposed to the print referencing teaching method had significantly higher reading skills, along with more advanced spelling and comprehension.
I really like studies like this because they evaluate, with rigor, things that we all do intuitively now and then – and show how we can use simple methods to not only make reading fun but also amp up the learning curve for our kids.
So when you are reading to your toddler, it’s a great idea to become more conscious of how you focus your toddler’s eyes on the page and engage them in recognizing and finding letters and words. Of course, part of the effect here comes from the very real benefit of making reading interactive (if you haven’t seen my earlier post on 3 ways of talking about stories when reading to your kids, click here). By engaging your toddler – and by bringing their eyes to the page while you bring the story to their imaginations – you can be sure that you are providing a very nice platform for later literacy skills.