Tuesday, April 24, 2012

12 Ways to Promote Early Literacy in the Bilingual Home

© kmiragaya - Fotolia.com

The following is a guest post by teacher and mami, Fabiola Woerner, for our "In Your Words" Literacy Series as we celebrate Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros this month on MommyMaestra.


“I want chocolate cereal,” said my three year old the other morning. “You want Cocoa Krispies?”  I replied, pointing to the name on the box. “Yeah,” she said.

You see, by pointing to the box, my daughter is learning that the chocolate cereal has a name, that we refer to it by its name, and that the name appears on print. 

Early literacy begins in the first 0-3 years of life. It is during this time that a child begins to interact with other readers, observe and practice writing by scribbling, and begin to develop their literate skills.    

Young children are great imitators and they will observe and want to do what they see us doing.

What can you do at home to promote literacy?

Literacy is promoted when we incorporate opportunities for reading, writing, and vocabulary building.

1.   Write to-do lists together – Each time my daughter sees me writing, she says “I ‘escribir’ too!” We sit together at the table, each with paper, a pen or pencil while I tell her what I am writing. I also read her the items that I’ve written down.  Sometimes I also ask her what she thinks we could include. You could also write grocery lists together.

2. Write letters / cards – My daughter learned this year that we write cards for family members on their birthday. She has learned that we write a special note in a card, that it goes in the envelope, and that we hand it to the person we wrote the card to.  She has now begun writing little notes (scribbles) on paper for everyone in the family. She ‘reads’ each one of them to us.

3.  Use labels – label toys with a picture of the object. Make labels relevant and practical for them as they will also use them for sorting and classifying items. You can also label kitchen jars, cabinets, etc.

4.  Post a daily schedule / daily routine – The left column can be a picture and the right column can be the words represented in the picture. Children are very visual and they will gain much from seeing that a picture is accompanied by a word.

You can also incorporate a specific reading time in your day. It could be right before nap time or at night before bed. You could use this time as a way to wind down children after a long day.

5.  Family Name Cards – Using Word or any other software, type the name of the person or relationship next to the picture. You can include the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts & uncles, teachers, friends, pets, etc.  It’s also helpful to help teach the child about family members who may live far away and don’t see very often but this way they are also learning about them.

6.  Library trips - Make or buy a special bag that is exclusively used for going to the library. Take your child to the children’s books section and allow them to choose a book or two that they can take home to read. You could also keep a special notebook in the bag where they could sketch a picture about the book they read with you.

7.  Create a reading area – Designate a corner somewhere in the home where you keep all the books and a comfy chair to read. Include books that are in English and Spanish or Bilingual texts. I also include books that have my children’s favorite character from TV.  I usually sit with them to read.  Use this time to read the title of the book, point to the page you are reading, ask questions about the pictures such as “What is she doing?” “Why do you think she is doing that?” “Is he/she happy / sad?” etc.

8.  Variety of print – Keep a variety of texts around in a basket. We keep magazines, catalogs, and books. Doing this, shows children that print is everywhere and it always carries meaning.

9.  Use recipes – Print and read recipes together as you cook or bake. Talk about the recipe aloud and say things like “here it says we need 1 cup of flour.” Use this time for teaching the names of the ingredients in both languages.

10.  Name banner – Practice name and letter recognition. I keep a banner in the bedroom, where my daughter points to the letters and tells me what they are. I also keep a seasonal banner in the living room with a word that represents the season such as “Love” or “Easter.” We go over those letters too and discuss what the season is about.

We’re currently learning the alphabet in English and Spanish, so there are times when my daughter mixes languages while telling the letters.


11.  Drawing and writing We paint 2-3 times a week in the morning. My daughter chooses the colors she wants to use and then paints a picture. While she paints, we talk about what she is painting. It usually involves a story, an object, or something she wants to do. I try to remember what she says so that we can write down the things she said about the picture.  If you need more room, then keep a second sheet of paper where you can write the things he/she said.  It’ll be a very sweet keepsake to look at someday.

12.   Storytelling – Have a family member share a story, it could be a family tradition or any activity they did earlier in the day. Then prompt your child to retell the story to another person.  This activity helps your child recall major information and details, build vocabulary, and teach about sequencing.


In sum, the home is a very rich environment full of opportunities to enhance literacy from a young age.  Children are eager to learn, discover, and explore. It is up to us to guide them in the right direction.  Use some or all of the activities listed above to engage your child in the literate world.

What do you do at home to promote literacy?

For further reading, check the following articles:

·   Early Literacy  - great article with ideas to teach literacy from a very young age.
http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/earlyliteracy2pagehandout.pdf

·  10 Reasons why you should read to your children – http://www.earlymoments.com/Promoting-Literacy-and-a-Love-of-Reading/Why-Reading-to-Children-is-Important/

·  Activities for Promoting Early Literacy - http://extension.missouri.edu/hes/childcare/promoteliteracy.pdf
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Fabiola is currently a stay-at-home mom to two children, soon to be three. She has a 3-year-old daughter and a 16-month-old son.  She has experience teaching children ages 3-9 years old, as well as adults. Her main interests include teaching reading, raising bilingual children, and crafting in her spare time.

1 comment:

  1. What a great list, Fabiola! Thank you for all of the great reminders. These are things I know to do but easily forget. Before a recent trip to the zoo, I asked my three-year-old to help me make a list of animals we wanted to see. I put her list (including "unicorn") on a clipboard and she loved using the marker to check off the animals we saw. We were able to practice beginning sounds and cross-checking and so much more! So easy and took so little prep time. Just had to think to do it!

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