Even if the children in your life are not yet school age, you have probably heard of Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law. Its aim is to get more of Michigan’s children reading on grade level by the time they are finishing third grade. This is important because the ability to read well is the foundation for future learning – young children learn to read, older children and adults read to learn.
As of 2017, just 32% of Michigan’s children were reading proficiently by fourth grade, a few points below the national average (1). This sounds bleak, but thankfully there is a lot that caregivers can do to help the children in their lives prepare for learning to read. We know that a child’s brain develops more between birth and the age of five than in any other time in life. In fact, a child’s brain reaches 90% of its adult size by age five (2), so while this law is focused on 3rd graders, honing a child’s pre-literacy skills should begin well before they enter school. This early brain growth is all about helping the brain make connections through daily experiences with caregivers, not necessarily academic skills. Librarians across the county utilize the five practices of Every Child Ready to Read to nurture early-literacy skills in children, and so can you! The five practices are Reading, Talking, Singing, Playing, and Writing, and they work together to help children understand the sounds that make up words (phonological awareness), increase vocabulary, become aware that print has meaning, and increase background knowledge about anything and everything, as well as promote bonding and positive relationships with caregivers.
Reading – the single most important activity to help children become ready to read; it increases vocabulary and shows children the world outside of their own.
Talking – encourages children to talk and provides added information.
Singing – slows down language so children can hear the smaller sounds in words and introduces new vocabulary.
Playing – young children do much of their learning through play, it promotes physical, cognitive, and social skills, as well as literacy skills.
Writing – is not defined by writing in the traditional sense, but any activity that promotes fine and gross motor skills, like crafts, using tools like jumbo tweezers, painting, and coloring.
For ideas on how to integrate the five practices of Every Child Ready to Read into your daily lives, check out these additional blog posts:
Every Child Ready to Read: Talking
(1) The Annie E. Case Foundation, 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book, State Trends on Child Well-being. Accessed March 19, 2020, https://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2019kidscountdatabook-2019.pdf.
(2) First Things First. “Brain Development,” First Things First, accessed March 19, 2020, https://www.firstthingsfirst.org/early-childhood-matters/brain-development/.