by Patrick Mitchell
Father involvement is vital to children’s academic, social, and emotional development—especially in the early years. Parents who acknowledge, and act on, this research-driven reality can give their preschool child a running start in school and in life.
One terrific way dads can become deeply involved in their preschool child’s development is by collaborating with the child’s mother to optimize their son or daughter’s early literacy development. There’s a small, but extraordinary window of opportunity during the preschool years, and parents who seize that opportunity can greatly affect how their child sees the world of words and ideas, and hence, the world of school.
Dads can play a major role in boosting their child’s literacy. As the father of two preschool children, I find the following fact intriguing: There is a direct correlation between a child’s knowledge of the alphabet in kindergarten and that child’s 10th grade reading ability. More specifically, how well a kindergarten child recognizes letters, letter sounds, understands that letters make words and that words can be strung together in written form to say things— amazing things—is linked to how well that child will read in the 10th grade!
According to early literacy specialist and researcher Elizabeth Sulzby, children need 1,000 hours of early literacy activities—lap reading, rhyming, singing, clapping, playing word games, and being read to—before they hit kindergarten. Children who get those 1,000 hours will be ready to learn the building blocks of reading that are taught in kindergarten, and those who don’t may have to play catch-up.
Since preschool happens before kindergarten, parents of pre-school children have a chance to convey to their child an appreciation of written and spoken language just in time for kindergarten. Moms are traditionally the story-book readers of the family, and their preschool children are known to sit wide-eyed on their laps watching page after page as their mom reads stories to them. More and more dads are reading books to their preschool children these days, and they’re telling stories, too—make-believe stories, and true stories of their childhood.
All this “extra” reading and storytelling is dynamite for a child’s early literacy development. It gives preschool children a double-whammy of early literacy—a double dose of the good stuff they need to succeed. And, it whittles away at those 1,000 hours of early literacy activities children need before kindergarten. Pre-school children who get ample early literacy experiences—at home and at preschool—are likely to become great readers. Now, that’s a fact that a down to earth dad, or mom, can get pretty excited about!
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This article originally appeared in The Down To Earth Dad™ monthly newsletter for parents, schools, and programs.