Every school has processes and traditions which are relatively unique to them. At CJFS we hold a meeting with each and every new family that comes into the school. This is one tradition that we are very proud of because it gives us a chance to meet and get to know each family. During the meeting, parents are invited to share their future goals for their children. Responses we get often range from hoping their children become doctors, lawyers, engineers and artists to simply children who treat others with kindness and respect. Each response tells us about the love, care and hope that parents feel for their children, but also the importance families place on education and children’s success in school.
The teachers’ job is an awesome responsibility. Families trust us with the most precious thing in the world each and every day. For people to be successful in life we must all have strong literacy skills. Research has shown that the reading ability of a student at the end of grade one is predictive of how they will do in later school years.
In a world where information is everywhere and knowledge changes at light speed, we must raise children to adapt and learn on their own. Parents often ask how we can work together to set students up for success when, in many cases, parents may not have done well in school themselves, or are unsure of how to help their children.
The good news is that it actually is much easier than we might expect. It is true that we need to teach students how to figure out words, decode text and how to think and visualize while reading, but the most important element in literacy development for children is coming to love language and story.
Children who hear more language, whatever the language may be, learn more words and come to understand that language is how we communicate. From the time they are in the womb, to the late elementary years children learn to read and write quicker and easier because they have heard and used many of the words and ideas they encounter.
Oral language (listening and speaking) is the stepping stone to literacy. As students begin to read picture books, early reader books and novels, they make connections to the words and ideas they have heard and used orally. The more we talk, tell and share stories aloud, the more we set children up for success in all areas of future life.
So, what do parents of young children need to do to support their children with literacy? Simply talk to them, tell them stories and read to them from the earliest age possible. The more words and stories we share with children, the more value they place on those words and stories and the more they will want to learn to read themselves.
We can teach children all of the phonics rules and mechanics of reading, but the most powerful force for children learning to read is a love of language and a love of story. That is something we can all share in and enjoy.