Sing, Count, Read!
Naomi H. Bradley M.Ed
“Mmmmmmmmm,” my 2 ½ year old child exclaimed as she ate her pasta and vegetables. Her little legs swinging from the high chair, head bobbing back and forth with delight. “It good”, she said as she struggled to grab another spoonful from her bowl before she retired the thought and began to use both hands. She’s right you know, my food is “good” but I decided now was as good a time as any to expose her to some words to use besides, “good”. I began to interrogate her on how “good” that pasta really was. Anyone with small children knows that they are natural parrots, repeating any and everything you say aloud. I said, “Faith, is it yummy?” She nodded her head up and down, “yummy”. “Is it delicious?” She tries to pronounce that word. Is it appetizing? “yes, Ap-size-ing”. Is it scrumptious? No attempt was made at that word, just a smile and a simple head nod. I think my point was made.
You may think me crazy for introducing synonyms to a 2 year old, but vocabulary exposure and acquisition is critical for African American children. The education theorist E.D. Hirsch wrote, There is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before the age 6, is the single highest correlate with later success. We should not drop the ball with pre-school preparation in hopes that students will pick up skills later. Later may be too late. Here are 3 things that you can be doing with your preschooler now to increase literacy skills and number sense.
- Sing the alphabet song to them. Whether in the car or catching the bus or during bath time, find some moments to not only sing the alphabet but to listen to them individually say each letter. Stop and pause and see if they can tell you what letter comes next. Once they’ve mastered, teach them the song backwards! (YouTube can help you learn it backwards yourself )
- Count snacks. I’m not sure there’s anything that young children love more than snacks. Use that which they love to engage in mathematical thinking through counting. How many grapes or chips do you have? Once the child has mastered one-to one-correspondence, begin simple addition and subtraction, “How many would you have if I took one away?” Make counting items a part of your daily routine with your child.
- READ. Take time to have your child sit in your lap or right next to you and read. What should you read?, ANYTHING! From the newspaper to an article from you phone, read to your child often and aloud. Rich vocabulary is acquired through active reading. The more you read to your child the more they will love to read, and the more knowledge they will gain.
Having children is a beautiful and wonderful experience. Make sure you equip them with the skills necessary to succeed. Children of professionals are exposed to approximately 1,500 more words/hour than children growing up in poverty. Lets strive to end this word gap through literacy exposure from birth. Well ,maybe not straight from birth, but definitely once they’re all cleaned up :)