Becoming a Big Kid
Give your child a book now, and she'll probably hold it the right way and turn the pages as if she's reading. But she couldn't be reading yet, could she? Not quite. However, kids this age often demonstrate "emergent literacy." In other words, they're developing the skills they'll need in order to learn to read and write.
Before age 2, children typically believe that when adults read them a story, they are reading the pictures in the book, says Laurie LeComer, author of A Parent's Guide to Developmental Delays (Perigee). They have little or no understanding of letters, words, and sentences. Sometime between the ages of 2 and 3, children start to understand that the story is actually coming from the words, not the pictures. Pre-reading skills include developing an interest in books, an increasing vocabulary, and learning that each letter has a different sound. Even before their third birthday, many children can recognize common signs like "exit," "stop," and "restroom."
Writing skills are also emerging around age 3. Once you show your 2-year-old what his written name looks like, he'll want you to write it on everything, and may even try copying it himself. And although your child's drawings may still look pretty primitive, if you ask him questions he might offer you a narrative that goes along with those scribbles.
Parents' Literacy Support
Studies have demonstrated that parents play an enormous role in a child's emerging literacy because the one thing that all good readers and writers have in common is that they were read to as children. Two-year-olds whose parents read to them often show more advanced language skills than kids who are read to less often. And if you engage in "dialogic" reading -- the sort of reading where you encourage her to talk about the story and ask questions as you go along -- some experts say you can accelerate your 2-year-old's language development by as much as 9 months. "A child's cognitive abilities are pre-wired by genetics to some degree, of course" says LeComer, "but every enriching experience in her environment stimulates the growth of her brain."