What we believe our children can do and achieve, influences what they see as possible for themselves. When you believe that your children will succeed at reading and writing, and you let them know this, you help them to see that this goal is within their reach. And, as you take the time to read and write with them, they experience the ways in which reading and writing can be satisfying and useful.
How adults respond to children’s attempts to read and write either encourages or discourages them. Giving them positive feedback as they try, helps to motivate them to keep at it – and the more they do it, the better they get at it! Here are some examples of what you can say and do to encourage your children as they learn to read and write.
* Talk about learning. Let your children know that because they are still learning to read and write, what they can do at the moment is not supposed to sound or look like someone who has been doing it for a long time.
* Acknowledge their efforts. Respond positively to every effort to read or write, no matter how small. For example, you could say, “I love hearing you try to read that all on your own!” or “I really liked your big bad wolf voice!” Also comment on the pleasure your children feel when they have completed something they set out to do, for example, “I can tell you really enjoyed writing your birthday list!”
* Be interested and proud. Show an interest in what your children are reading and writing and tell them that you value their attempts, whether or not they do it perfectly. For example, say, “I’d love to read the names you’ve written on your list.” or “What are you reading about?”
* Offer support. Support your children’s attempts to work on their own, without jumping in to correct every mistake they make. Rather, let them focus on understanding as they read and on communicating a message in their writing. Remember that correct spelling and punctuation come in time as a child reads and writes more and more.
* Motivate them. When you spend time reading and writing with children, they learn that these activities are worthwhile and they want to do them too. Read together. When your children bring you a book to read to them, take the time to do so – even if they have to wait a few minutes for you to first finish what you are doing. Also find opportunities to write together. Work together to write party invitations, shopping lists, reminder notes for members of the family and anything else you can think of!
What you say and do matters! When you read and write with your children and respond positively and with real interest to their attempts, you are building the foundations for their success as readers and writers.