Encouraging early literacy

There comes a magical moment when you read to your kids… when they go from trying to eat the book, to actually listening to the story. 🙂

ZogBook

Zog is our fave at the mo…

A new evidence-based policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses how parents and doctors can help children learn to read and prepare for school:

Parents

  • Reading aloud with young children is one of the most effective ways to expose them to enriched language and to encourage specific early literacy skills needed to promote school readiness;
  • Here’s a list of the “5 Rs” that can promote reading readiness in early childhood education:
  1. Reading together as a daily fun family activity;
  2. Rhyming, playing, talking, singing and cuddling together throughout the day;
  3. Routines and regular times for meals, play and sleeping, which help children know what they can expect and what is expected from them;
  4. Rewards for everyday successes, particularly for effort toward worthwhile goals. Such a worthwhile goal is helping around the house, for example; *
  5. Relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing, purposeful and enduring. Such relationships provide an important foundation for children’s mental and overall development.

* We’re having certain limitations with getting Max to help around the house. Probably because he can’t walk yet…

Doctors (specifically pediatricians, but definitely applicable to any healthcare provider, including GPs):

  • Encourage early literacy development during well visits beginning in infancy and until at least kindergarten age;
  • Counsel parents that reading aloud with their young children on a daily basis can enhance their social and emotional development and help prepare them to learn early language and reading skills;
  • Educate parents about developmentally appropriate, enjoyable reading activities for their children;
  • Provide at-risk children (e.g., from low-income families) with “developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate” books during well visits;
  • Offer informational materials to parents to support literacy efforts, including information about programs at public libraries and the AAP’s Literacy Toolkit.

This all sounds wonderful but of course in reality things are always a little different… not least because parents are not going to read aloud to their children if they cannot read themselves. There’s a strong correlation between low literacy, poor health, and low socio-economic status.  Reading is going to be low down on the list of priorities when you’re working two jobs just to keep food on the table.

Illiteracy really is a whole other topic… check out UNESCO’s International Literacy Data (for adults/ youth, per country/ sex, and the relationship between literacy and national wealth). The stats may surprise you. Here’s a snapshot:

Adult Literacy Rates 2013 (UNESCO)

Adult Literacy Rates 2013 (UNESCO)

Youth Literacy Rates 2013 (UNESCO)

Youth Literacy Rates 2013 (UNESCO)

Don’t forget these rates are ‘overall’ rates and may ‘hide’ illiteracy.  For instance (jokes about two heads aside), a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2011-2012 shows half of all Tasmanians aged 15 to 74 are functionally illiterate, and more than half are functionally innumerate—meaning they don’t have the skills needed to get by in the modern world.

For those of you peeps who don't know where Tasmania is...!

For those of you peeps who don’t know where Tasmania is…!

“First World” Illiteracy

It’s not just Australia with this problem:

  • 32 million Americans (1 in 7);
  • Nearly 9 million British (also 1 in 7);
  • 15 million Canadians (1 in 2.3);

…have ‘low literacy’ (which means unable to read anything more challenging than a kiddie’s book, and unable to read prescription instructions on their medication). Both shocking and sad… and these are the ‘most developed nations’ on earth. Makes you redefine your definition of “developed”.

This picture really stuck with me:

The 100,000th Afghan National Security Force Literacy Graduate

The 100,000th Afghan National Security Force Literacy Graduate (Wikimedia)

He’s fighting wars and still makes time to read.

REFERENCES
COUNCIL ON EARLY CHILDHOOD. Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice. Pediatrics. 2014 Jun 23. pii: peds.2014-1384. [Epub ahead of print]
American Academy of Pediatrics Literacy Toolkit 
Reach Out & Read Website 
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO Institute for Statistics)

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