What did you say?
Before they become literate children live in an oral world. From early babyhood a child is immersed in language and learns to decode the world he lives in through the words he learns. Children can learn concepts through songs, rhymes and chants long before they begin the process of learning to read. Reading is really just a process of learning the abstract symbols we use for sounds that children have already know through their oral learning from birth.
Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer-Prize winning author, describes this oral world in his memoir, titled "Books". He says, "It puzzles me how totally bookless our ranch house was. There must have been a bible, but I don't remember seeing it. The fact of the bookless ranch house meant that before the age of five or six I lived in an aural culture. My mother, father, grandfather, grandmother and whatever uncles or cowboys happened by, sat on the front porch every night in good weather and told stories..."
The experience he describes is a mostly lost tradition, but children still learn through the things they hear spoken. If you have ever heard a toddler parrot a naughty word you have witnessed this phenomenon! We can influence a child's early learning by talking, singing, storytelling, reading aloud, making silly rhymes, and naming things we see. Children will need to master the language before they begin the process of reading. Children's learning begins by observing enthusiastic role models interact and use language in every format, from conversation to singing to reading.
How can you influence how engaging books and learning are for your child once they become literate? The first steps are rooted in the oral world they live in as infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Engage them in learning long before the "reading process" begins. In short, speak and they will learn, speak more and they will learn more.
Michele, Children's Librarian