Some of the most dramatic brain development occurs during the first three years of a child’s life. During this critical time children are acquiring their ability to think, speak, learn, and reason. According to the US Department of Education, the best way to nurture these young minds is to read aloud to them—even as an infant.
Research has shown that reading aloud to children is one of the most important activities required for educational success later in life. When parents or caregivers read aloud to children they are helping them to build the roots of language in their developing minds.
Engaging children with stories does not have to take place in a specific place or with a typical book, it can happen in any location and at any time. Invite children to tell you a story while you’re riding in the car. Encourage them to retell a story from the pictures of a book, or simply develop a story from the objects they see around them. This fosters creativity as well as narrative skills, which help with reading comprehension later in life. You don’t always have to be the one reading or telling!
Research shows that listening to books engages the same cognitive and emotional areas of the brain as reading them in print. Libraries offer many options for books to listen to as a family while you are in the car or just hanging out at home including eBooks, books on CD, and books with their own audio player. Sitting together and listening to a picture book and narrated by someone else can add a new dimension to the story and give you a break when you read it for what feels like the hundredth time! Ask your librarian for their favorite narrator or some great family read-alouds for your next adventure.
One of the great places for parents to learn new tips and tricks for building early literacy is at your local library. Frederick County Public Libraries (FCPL) has extensive programming for 0-5 year olds and every librarian is trained by Frederick County Public School staff to ensure that library programs help prepare children for success and the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. FCPL has also recently launched a program entitled “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” which is an incentivized road-map for parents and children alike to achieve higher levels of literacy before entering school.
Janet Vogel is the Youth Services Manager for Frederick County Public Libraries, where she manages all youth initiatives across the nine branches of FCPL. Vogel has a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois and has worked with FCPL since 2008.