Preparing Children for Reading Success: Hands-On Activities for Librarians, Educators, and Caregivers
by Dr. Julia Irwin and Dr. Dina Moore
Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) professors of psychology, Dr. Julia Irwin and Dr. Dina Moore, study the way humans develop literacy skills and fluency—particularly in the way children gain the ability to read in the pre-literacy phase. Their 2014 book, Preparing Children for Reading Success: Hands-On Activities for Librarians, Educators, and Caregivers, presents 25 activities for adults to help foster the development of this critical skill in children.
“Julia and I both have a background in developmental psychology and a general interest in language and language development. We both have worked at Haskins Laboratories, which is a lab dedicated to speech and reading research in New Haven,” says Dr. Moore. “We both had the opportunity to work with [Haskins Laboratories’] Dr. Anne E. Fowler, who was very interested in children’s literacy and promoting early literacy in children. The idea for our book really came from her work and our work with her.”
The book is focused on the skills and behaviors that support emerging literacy in very young children. “There’s a real risk if you don’t learn to read early, because if you miss that early exposure and aren’t a fluent reader, then it’s impossible to learn about almost anything else,” says Dr. Irwin. “There are certain skills that researchers know promote early reading—exposure to books, alphabet skills, and so on. So, the book is aimed to lay the foundation in advance of developing the ability to read.”
“I think my bias toward physical books for young children is that if you’re holding a child in your lap and helping them turn the pages,” says Dr. Moore, “you have this kind of tactile experience and an aural experience in that they’re also hearing you and listening to you read.” With devices like a phone or tablet, it becomes much easier to allow the children to entertain themselves, while neglecting the educational aspect.
“We have a chapter in the book on manipulating a book and book-handling skills,” says Dr. Irwin, “so even just knowing the orientation, up from down, where the text is, turning pages—those are really important things that children need to be alerted to. I think having an actual book where they can turn the pages in a more active way is important.”
On a general level, the book contains activities that are engaging, fun, and easily integrated into the daily routine by a caregiver or preschool teacher. “For example, with alphabet knowledge and learning to visually identify letters of the alphabet, one of the activities we suggested that parents can easily incorporate is a letter search or a letter hunt,” says Dr. Moore. “So, imagine you’re at the grocery store with your three-year-old, and you have [the child] point out all of whatever particular letter you’re working with.”
“Activities like these keep children engaged while in public,” says Dr. Moore, “but also give them the opportunity to observe and identify different types of prints while they’re in a particular environment.” This strategy also engages parents and caregivers in conversation with their children, helping to build vocabulary and exposing them visually to new words.