Establishing your child’s future success with literacy and learning is fundamental for their development. We chat with Debbie Horgan from MidCoast Libraries and get a few tips on how we, as parents, can help our little ones on their educational path.
Hi Debbie. Can you tell us about your work at MidCoast Libraries?
I’m the Community Outreach Librarian and work alongside a great library team to deliver a range of programs and activities that support lifelong learning in our community. As well as my own passion for reading, working in our libraries gives me the opportunity to help others access a wealth of information and resources. I’m fortunate that in my role I get to work with people from across the entire community – from babies and toddlers, right through to seniors.
What is early literacy, and why is it important?
At its simplest, early literacy is about providing opportunities for young children to be able to experience language in all its forms. This can include talking, listening, and reading, but extends to other forms of expression such as storytelling, music, movement, dance, and drawing. It’s these types of activities and experiences that underpin the development of strong literacy skills.
Early literacy is really important, because positive early literacy experiences help to build a strong foundation for learning to read and write, and are a key for children’s future success in learning.
Can you explain how early literacy helps with language development?
Rich and varied early literacy experiences provide opportunities for young children to develop their oral language skills and expand their knowledge of the world. Engaging in conversations, answering questions, having shared experiences, and reading aloud to our children, all support language development and nurture a love of learning.
How can parents help their child develop early literacy skills at home?
Everyday activities such as talking, reading and singing with young children are great ways to help develop a child’s language skills. But there are many different ways to interact with young children that also assist with early literacy. These might include cooking, building, playing, drawing, counting, measuring, and painting.
Reading aloud to young children is a favourite activity for parents and their little ones. Not only is reading together important in expanding a child’s vocabulary, but it also develops an understanding and knowledge of printed words and books, and stimulates imagination, creativity and curiosity.
Does singing songs and rhymes with infants and toddlers increase their vocabulary?
Yes! Children first learn language by listening to the speech and sounds of their caregivers and then imitating. Singing songs and rhymes with babies and toddlers will increase their vocabulary. It will also teach them about the rhythm and patterns of spoken language, and support the development of communication and listening skills. Talk and sing to your babies, then sing along with your toddlers every chance you get!
What types of books should we have available for young readers? Do you have any specific book recommendations?
Books for babies and toddlers should be resilient – they should be able to withstand being chewed and dropped in the bath or left in the sandpit. Board books are perfect for 0 – 3s to carry around and read whenever they feel like it. They should have few words and simple interesting illustrations or photographs.
As children get older, they will have books they love to read over and over – this is a really important stage of literacy development which should be encouraged and supported (I know it gets hard after the 13th reading of Peter Rabbit, but …)
There are too many fabulous books to be able to recommend only a few – but I do recommend bringing your little one to the library and spending half an hour with them in amongst the picture books. I can guarantee you will both find something you’ll love to read together, and best of all, you’ll know you’re helping to set up your child’s future success with literacy and learning.
What programs are available in the local area that children can attend?
At MidCoast Libraries we offer a range of early literacy programs, such as Tiny Turtles and Wriggle, Giggle, Read for babies and toddlers (0 – 3 years), and Storytime and Turtletime for preschool children and their parents and carers. They’re designed for parents and carers to be enjoyed with their child, and deliver rich language experiences in a fun and informal environment. Best of all, they’re free to attend.
Activities are held regularly across our libraries and include stories, rhymes and craft tailored by age. Everyone is welcome, and there’s no need to book ahead. The program of locations and dates is listed on our website.
For more information about early literacy programs and resources, please visit MidCoast Libraries’ website www.midcoastlibraries.com or call the friendly team at your library for more information.
Interview: Bronwyn Davis.