• CPS - Masica Jordan

     By Masica Jordan, Adjunct Faculty, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences 

    Life has a way of challenging you to grow. The roles, career paths, friends, family, and community services that we become involved in help to shape us and make us grow. Recently, I have been challenged to grow in my role as an early literacy program coordinator, treatment services coordinator, and new mother, as I have been challenged to take a look at early literacy and how to create the best learning environment to promote early literacy for my 9-month-old son. It has been a pleasure being a national early literacy program coordinator for a program that reaches children of all ages in a variety of settings. I also serve full time as a treatment services coordinator for a substance abuse program that provides clinical and educational services for adult men in recovery. In my role as a treatment services coordinator I oversee an independent learning program helping men in recovery who come in with clinical needs and literacy deficits. Some of the men are age 40 or older, and cannot read or write their names. Most of these men never received the benefit of a learning environment that promoted early literacy and began their formal education with a deficit in comparison to their peers. 

    After working with these men and as an early literacy program coordinator, I understood the importance of creating an early literacy environment and fortunately I knew how to create one for my son. I have created five recommendations parents can use to help cultivate an early literacy environment.

    • The first recommendation is for parents to understand that showing children how to enjoy reading is one of the most essential things you can do as a parent or guardian. It is an invaluable investment of time and energy and helps children begin school without having the challenge of coping with a learning deficit like many of the men I have worked with. Some leave this up to their children’s school. However, learning reading in school is one of the ways children begin to associate reading with work, not pleasure. Consequently, many children lose their desire to read. It is that desire, interest, and curiosity that becomes the foundation to using reading and related skills successfully.
    • The second recommendation is for parents to inspire their children to love books and reading by regularly read aloud. Parents need to make this process fun by using gestures, sounds related to the text and pictures, and smiling and laughing with their children. The sooner you start the better. My son, who is 9 months old, can see pictures, listen to my voice, and turn the cardboard pages of the baby Bible I read to him every day. He actually looks forward to this time. He is starting to recognize the pictures and has even began to identify his favorite parts of the book; this is apparent by how he reaches, grabs, and attempts to flip back to that page.
    • The third recommendation is for parents to ensure they make this time a special time when they hold their children and share the pleasure of a story without the distractions of cell phones, computers, or television. Turn them off! Parents may find that they actually share in the enjoyment of reading a well-written children's book to their children. Some of the books are quite humorous, entertaining, and have unique storylines.  Parents should begin to take this time as early as infancy and continue reading aloud once their children have learned to read for themselves. At this stage, parents can take turns reading every other page with their children. This joint pleasure will continue to strengthen children's curiosity and appreciation for reading.  
    • The fourth recommendation is for parents to enjoy reading themselves. Children learn by example quicker than verbal instruction. If children see their parents enjoying books they will be more inspired to enjoy books themselves. Simply having magazines, various books, a book shelf, or home library can help children view books as part of every day life.
    • The fifth recommendation is for parents to schedule fun outings at their local libraries to encourage reading. Some parents have not visited a library in a long time but should not be intimidated. The children's librarian is a specialist trained to help parents locate books that are good for reading aloud and books for particular age groups. Parents can also just browse through the countless variety of books available at the library until they find ones that appeal to them and their children.

    These 5 recommendations are just a start. There are tons of ways to help create an early literacy environment for children. However, parents need to remember to make reading enjoyable and an every day part of life for their children. This is one of the best ways to help children start strong and provide a lasting effect. 

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