Tips, resources to help young children be ready to read

The Beaufort County Library provides resources and programming to help any parent or caregiver ensure their child develops skills that will help them learn to read.
The Every Child Ready to Read early literacy initiative, designed by the American Library Association, introduces parents, caregivers and family members to five simple activities that are critical to helping the young child in your life develop the early literacy skills they will need to become successful readers. Those five simple activities are talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.
Talk, talk, talk to your baby, toddler and young child. The more you talk to your little one, the more aware he will be of language, sounds and phonics. This awareness becomes the springboard your baby will need to learn new words and sounds, and to understand the meaning of words. As he starts to read, this knowledge will form the basis for decoding the printed word.
Talk to your little ones. Try describing everyday activities as you do them, such as getting dressed, getting buckled into the car seat or folding laundry. Talk to your child about the toys he is playing with or the sights that he can see outside the window. Describe what you both can see and get your little one to tell you about it, too. Stretch his vocabulary by asking questions and by introducing new words into the conversation.
Sing to, and with, your little one. No musical ability is required, so let down your guard and enjoy this fun way to help your little one develop reading readiness skills. Sing the alphabet song, the birthday song, and other rhymes and chants that you remember from your own childhood.
Visit the library and load up on children's CDs, song books and Mother Goose rhymes. Play those CDs in the car and sing along as you and your baby run errands. You'll be surprised how quickly she will learn the words and rhythms of these simple songs. Singing allows children the opportunity to hear words at a slower pace, making it easier for children to recognize the sounds and syllables that make up the song or rhyme.
Read every day to your children. Read aloud all types of printed words, from box labels to signs and billboards alongside the road to board books and picture books that are available at your local library. Repeated studies of brain development in children have proven that reading together is the single most important way to help children ready themselves to read independently. Shared reading helps babies develop an interest in stories and the printed word, and it introduces the proper way to hold a book and turn the pages.
Research shows that children who are read to from an early age become strong readers themselves and are more likely to remain lifelong readers and active learners through senior adulthood. Each branch of the Beaufort County Library is well stocked with board books, which are chunky and durable books designed to withstand use by babies and toddlers. These books can be pricey, so make sure you visit the library often and check out stacks of them -- for free -- to enjoy at home and in the car. Our library shelves are also filled with beautiful picture books for sharing with your child. We have picture books available on every topic imaginable, so let us help you find a stack to please even the pickiest preschooler.
Write with your little one. There is truly nothing to fear when developing this skill set. Writing starts as a series of scribbles or marks as they draw or "write" with crayons. Encourage your child to draw on paper and then have them tell you about their "writing." As you listen to your child's descriptions, put captions or descriptive words next to your child's drawing. This simple activity subtlety introduces the connection between the spoken and written word and is an important step in getting young minds ready to read.
Coloring with crayons reinforces hand-eye coordination and develops the hand muscles that are needed to hold a pencil. Helping your child write the letters of the alphabet and teaching your child to write their name independently is another critical but simple step that parents and caregivers can practice with their child.
The final, fun step is playing. Children learn about language and enhance their communication skills through play. During play, they begin to think symbolically as they start to connect spoken and written words with real objects and experiences. Playing helps children of all ages express their thoughts and ideas.
Make sure the child in your life has plenty of opportunities to play. Playing allows them the opportunity to develop their imagination, to engage in simple problem solving, to stretch their narrative skills, and to learn to share and play nicely with others. In addition to being lots of fun, unstructured imaginative play helps little ones prepare to become strong independent readers.
The Beaufort County Library provides resources, programs and materials that will keep your family talking, singing, reading, writing and playing for hours on end. Each branch has friendly staff to help you find the books, music and materials that are sure to keep your child learning and entertained. Each branch provides programming for children beginning at birth and continuing through their high school years. These programs are free and provide age-appropriate activities for your child. It's the perfect way to provide socialization for your child, and gives you a chance to form friendships with other parents and caregivers. Toys, puzzles, crayons and coloring sheets are also waiting for you in the children's department at your neighborhood branch library. Stop by and discover all that we have to help your little one become an amazing reader and learner.
Julie Bascom is a the youth services manager at the Hilton Head Island Branch of the Beaufort County Library System, at 11 Beach City Road, Hilton Head.

Original story at the Island Packet