MICHAELA MORRIS: The ABC’s aren’t just for teachers

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

People often think of learning to read as something you do in elementary school.
Elementary school is certainly where the rubber meets the road, and our teachers do heroic heavy lifting every day to help our children master this critical life skill.
But the work of learning to read starts long before our children reach school, and parents are the key architects of the foundation that will allow them to read.
Most of the time, this work takes place under the radar for parents. We don’t realize we’re building up our children’s capacity for language and reading.
We’re singing a song to soothe a cranky baby. We’re making a game out of emptying the dishwasher to entertain a toddler. We’re trying to settle down rambunctious kids at bedtime with a storybook. We don’t want to hear “Are we there yet?” again, so we start a letter scavenger hunt during a car trip.
The song is building awareness of rhymes and the sounds of words. The running monologue is building vocabulary, helping kids connect words to the real-life objects. The bedtime story is building bonds and awareness of the printed word. The scavenger hunt fosters letter recognition.
Little things like playing rhyming word games, singing a favorite song and telling a story from your childhood provide the building blocks for literacy. They also help us share our traditions and values. It’s parental multitasking at its best.
These things don’t take a huge commitment of time. Chances are you’re already doing some of these things already. Every parent can do these things, no matter his or her own level of literacy. These are things our children can’t get from television.
They make a huge difference in helping our children have the tools they need when they arrive at kindergarten.
Kids need to have these tools in place for kindergarten, because the first year of school is no longer about learning letters, colors and shapes. By the end of the first semester, kindergartners need to be able to read three- and four-word sentences to be on grade level.
My son turned eight this week. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s a joy to watch him – and his 10-year-old sister – grow as readers. It’s among the most important things I have done as a parent.
Michaela Gibson Morris is a Daily Journal staff writer. Contact her at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@journalinc.com.