What is literacy?
Literacy means being able to read and write.
Why is reading important?
A child's reading skills are important to their success in school and work. In addition, reading can be a fun and imaginative activity for children, which opens doors to all kinds of new worlds for them. Reading and writing are important ways we use language to communicate.
How do reading and language skills develop?
For an answer to this question, check out the following link:
- Language and Literacy Development from birth to three years—this helpful brochure tells you what to expect and how to help.
Research has identified five early reading skills that are all essential. They are :
- Phonemic awareness—Being able to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
- Phonics—Being able to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of spoken language.
- Vocabulary—The words kids need to know to communicate effectively.
- Reading comprehension—Being able to understand and get meaning from what has been read.
- Fluency (oral reading)—Being able to read text accurately and quickly.
- Turn off the tube. Start by limiting your family’s television viewing time.
- Teach by example. If you have books, newspapers and magazines around your house, and your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading. You can’t over-estimate the value of modeling.
- Read together. Reading with your child is a great activity. It not only teaches your child that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up. Books can really open the lines of communication between parent and child.
- Hit the library. Try finding library books about current issues or interests in your family’s or child’s life, and then reading them together. For example, read a book about going to the dentist prior to your child’s next dental exam, or get some books about seashore life after a trip to the coast. If your child is obsessed with dragons, ask your librarian to recommend a good dragon novel for your child.
There are many ways to include reading in your child's life, starting in babyhood, and continuing through the teen years. Focus on literacy activities that your child enjoys, so that reading is a treat, not a chore.
How do you read to a baby?
- Use small, chunky board books that your baby can easily hold onto.
- Talk about the pictures with your little one.
- Sing the text to keep baby's attention.
- Play peek-a-boo with lift-the-flap books.
- Help your baby touch and feel in texture books.
- Suggested Reading Activities—a quick list arranged by age group.
- Ready—Set—Read for families has lots of activities and ideas grouped by age group that you can use to help your young child (birth to age 5) learn about language and get ready to read.
- Get Ready to Read! activity cards and online games for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Reading is Fundamental offers terrific resources, including activities, booklists, articles, brochures, and multicultural literacy resources..
- Reading Rockets offers information and resources for families and professionals.
- İColorín Colorado! is part of Reading Rockets, and offers information, activities and advice for Spanish-speaking parents and educators of English language learners.
- Tips for choosing books your child will like at different ages and stages, infant through age five.
- Reading tips for parents.
- Using the library
- More on libraries and kids, from babies through teens
What if my child is having trouble with reading?
Some children have difficulty learning to read. You may hear from a teacher that your child has difficulty with language, or you may have noticed some difficulties that your child has. When reading and language difficulties are identified, special teaching can be given to help your child reach their full potential. Here are some resources:
- YourChild: Dyslexia and Reading Problems and YourChild: Learning Disabilities have information about reading problems and how to help your child.
- If you think there’s a problem: Helping your child become a reader—from the U.S. Department of Education.
- Strategies to Help Kids Who Struggle from Reading Rockets.
- Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, is an online book from the National Academies of Science (NAS).
- Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success is also from the NAS.
If you have questions about your child's ability to use language or read, please ask your pediatrician or school system to check that part of your child's learning.
- In Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the Family Learning Institute (FLI) provides low income students who are performing below grade level a no-cost, supplemental academic program. Children can receive one-on-one reading instruction with a trained tutor. FLI was recently recognized for its excellent teen literacy program.
Just as some kids have trouble reading, some adults do, too—or may have never learned to read at all. In fact, one in five adults has real trouble reading.
Is there an adult or family literacy program near me?
There are many places for adults to find help. If you or a parent you know needs to learn to read better, here's how to find a nearby literacy program:
- To find a program in your area, go to America's Literacy Directory, or call the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) Hotline at 1-800-228-8813 to speak with an English- or Spanish-speaking operator, or call 1-800-552-9097 TTD.
- Find your state literacy hotlines and contacts.
- Check with a neighborhood library, community college, or city or county human services office, or contact your state's Director of Adult Education to find out about other programs.
- To get help with your reading or writing skills, or to learn English, search for a volunteer tutor program in your area.
- For family literacy programs, contact the Even Start Family Literacy Program in your state or the National Center for Family Literacy, whose phone number is 502.584.1133. Find a program near you.
- In Spanish: Directorio Nacional de Alfabetización
- The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.
A great book that looks at the research on reading and tells parents and educators what they need to know about reading aloud to kids. It includes all kinds of specific tips and strategies that you can start using right away, and a giant annotated list of recommended read-aloud books. A super way to get started with making books an important part of family life.
- Get Ready to Read is a national campaign to build the early literacy skills of preschool children. The campaign brings all kinds of resources—including a screening tool and skill-building activities to parents and early childhood teachers and caregivers for helping prepare children to learn to read and write.
- Helping Your Child Become a Reader (also in Spanish) from the US Department of Education.
- Books, magazines, software and websites to promote reading—a list of resources from the U.S. Department of Education. Books are grouped by type and intended age group.
- The Reading Chair, from National Association for the Education of Young Children, offers excellent reviews of current children's books.
- The Children’s Book Council offers reading lists for teachers, librarians, parents, and booksellers to discover new, wonderful books for the children in their lives.
- Reach Out and Read (ROR) programs seek to make early literacy a standard part of pediatric primary care. By following the ROR model, physicians and nurses counsel parents that reading aloud is the most important thing they can do to help their children love books and to start school ready to learn.
- Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read is a parent guide for preschool through third grade from the Partnership for Reading (the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the US Department of Education). This resource offers information on how teachers help kids develop literacy skills, and how you can help your child at home.
- Teaching Reading IS Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do. This is a booklet from the American Federation of Teachers that puts forth a roadmap for preparing teachers to teach children to read based on scientific research.
- The Clearinghouse on Reading, English & Communication at the Indiana University School of Education provides educational materials, services and coursework to everyone interested in language arts.
- Literacy Resource Guide for Families and Educators contains information on major national research studies and literacy resources. It lists practical, helpful publications and ordering information.
Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN. Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan
Updated October 2010