Exposing young children to books and literacy experiences continues to be an important factor of child development.
The frequency of engagement in early literacy opportunities for children is closely linked to the development of school readiness skills and academic success in the future.
Parents, caregivers and teachers are all responsible for creating an environment that promotes reading, exploring books and language development.
How we read to children and how often we read to them are both essential characteristics to consider.
Adults must step away from the mindset of a child sitting still and quiet during story time; of course, there is a time and place for that lesson, but story time should be full of enthusiasm and conversation.
The expectation of a child being a silent little statue during a story can be sending the message that books are tranquilizers.
Books should not put children to sleep; they should bring life, creativity and new ideas to their young minds. Adults should also be encouraged to incorporate reading in a child’s daily routine, not just at school and bedtime.
Providing books in the car, reading food packaging at the grocery store, or a short story in the morning are all additional ways to encourage reading.
The technique of dialogic reading encourages the adult reader and the child or children to have a conversation as the story goes on.
Children should be encouraged to ask questions during the story, talk about what they find interesting and connect the story to their own personal experiences.
Young children will learn best when they are engaged using this strategy.
Purdue Extension-Health and Human Sciences in Hancock County offers dialogic reading workshops to any group or organization that is interested in learning more about how to best read to young children.
Preparing children for academic success is one of the top initiatives for extension educators.
For that reason, Purdue Extension-HHS, with the support of the Hancock County Extension Homemakers, secured funding through the Purdue Jean Ann Behney Grant to host a literacy night for the Head Start programs in Hancock County.
The literacy night expands upon the Extension Homemaker’s First Book Program, in which they read to the Head Start students once a month and send a book home with each child for their own personal library.
The goal was to provide a fun, educational literacy experience for the students and families that would help increase their knowledge, engagement and excitement for literacy in early childhood.
On March 18, five local organizations came together to host “Camp-Read-a-Lot.” Head Start students and families were invited to participate in a camp-themed evening.
Participants were welcomed with a packet containing literacy resources and two free books for the children to take home.
Barbara Roark, assistant director of the Hancock County Public Library, explained opportunities available for families at the library and read a story to the children.
Mandy Gray, the food nutrition program assistant in Hancock County, enlightened families on the opportunity to participate in her nutrition education classes.
Next, the children enjoyed three stories by the campfire (The scene was set with a faux forest of evergreens, a tent, sleeping bags, s’mores and even a sleepy bear).
The children were delighted by the stories, as members of the Hancock County Extension Homemakers and Greenfield-Central High School FCCLA read stories and brought the books to life by dressing up as characters and acting out the scenes. After story time, the families were encouraged to participate together in camp-themed crafts, literacy games and snacks.
Camp-Read-a-Lot was a wonderful community collaboration and event promoting literacy in early childhood. Hosting a literacy night is a great example of how your school, business or organization can support the families you serve. For more information on dialogic reading workshops, contact the Hancock County Extension office at 317-462-1113.