Because language and literacy skills are essential for children’s success in school and in life, the early childhood years are a critical period for developing these skills. There are numerous ways parents and child care providers can motivate preschoolers to enjoy literacy learning. The most important way to positively influence children is to serve as a role model. Children need to see adults enjoying reading and writing. They also need to see adults in their home as well as their child care center reading and writing to accomplish meaningful tasks. These can be everyday tasks such as making shopping lists and reading letters.
In child care centers, books need to be readily available to children. Library areas need to have comfortable furniture that help children relax as they look at books. Cozy, homelike touches, such as plants, rugs, pillows, pictures, stuffed animals and dolls, all add to the enjoyment. Display age-appropriate books with the covers facing out. Have story retelling props nearby and have books and corresponding tapes stored together. Check the books in the library area regularly to make sure they are in good condition and rotate them periodically.
Sufficient choices of literacy materials should be available to children. This allows them to choose the reading and writing materials they want to use. Keep sticky notes and pencils in the library area so children can identify their favorite books by writing their names on the notes and placing the papers on the covers. Also invite them to request books for story time.
It is important to read to children at a very early age and show enthusiasm during read aloud times. Your love of the stories will show in the expressions on your face and in the tone of your voice. Include books and reading strategies that encourage active participation during story time. Use objects, sounds, finger plays, games or personal recollections as ways of motivating children to listen and respond to a story. Involving children in read aloud times not only motivates them, but it also promotes their language skills and comprehension.
Literacy can be linked to play as well. Encourage children to talk about their play. Oral language is the foundation of literacy. After observing children playing, adults can offer materials and real-life reasons to use literacy. For example, if the children find an unusual bug, books can be used to find the name of the bug and something about it. Or if they are having difficulty learning to share, books can be used to show them how to solve problems and take turns. Children’s early literacy experiences occur in real-life settings in which they see literacy being used for meaningful purposes. Adults play a key role in helping motivate children to enjoy literacy learning.