Early Literacy

Making Early Literacy an Intentional Act

As I was flying home from Maryland after having visited relatives and gorged myself on way too much pie, I had the luck to sit next to a wonderful family of four. A mother, a father, a little four year-old boy and his sister, aged two.

First, the boy and his father sat next to me. They played a few games together on their iPad (all apps, I noticed, that we at the library recommend for young children). They were wonderful to listen to (admittedly, I was asleep through most of the father/son interaction – like I said, a lot of pie had been eaten!) — but the real treat came at the end of the flight when the mother and daughter switched to the seats next to me.

They also spent some time on the iPad, though the apps were different and much more developmentally appropriate for her. Again, there was lots of conversation being had, lots of counting, talking about animals, telling stories, laughter and smiles! Then the iPad was put away and a favorite book was brought out that had to do with rock and roll animals (who wouldn’t love that!). They read the book together, always taking time to stop and talk about the pictures in the book. At one point, the little girl even counted to ten in English and Spanish just for the fun of it!

My little librarian heart just soared listening to them having so much fun with literacy! Finally, at the end of plane ride, I began talking to the mother and wouldn’t you know it – she was a librarian too! She said she was an elementary and teen librarian and hadn’t had an opportunity to work in early literacy but had been going to classes and workshops at her library ever since her children had been born. Then she said something that I’ve heard before but I guess I’d never really heard until then.

She loved how intentional one can be with early literacy, and when that intentionality is focused on, how much more fun the process becomes for both her and her child. And they really were just having tons of fun, living in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. As a result, I was having tons of fun just listening to them!

Children grow up so fast and life can be so hectic that this sense of intentionality or purposefulness can sometimes be hard to find. I have a hard time finding it in the busy-ness of my work day. But her statement and her actions reminded me that finding even a little bit goes a long way. So I treat it like meditation. Before each story time or when I see a child approaching the desk, I take a breath and remember my purpose. My purpose is not something I will get to tomorrow or when my to-do list is clear. It is right now, with this child, this parent, and this moment.

How do you demonstrate intentional early literacy with your families?

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Photo taken by Andy Laviolette
Photo taken by Andy Laviolette

Our guest blogger today is Lisa Bubert. Lisa is a Youth Services Librarian with the Frisco Public Library in Frisco, TX. Early literacy and writing are her two passions and she enjoys taking any opportunity to put them together.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

One comment

  1. Cheri Crow

    Love this post and was just thinking about how this is discussed in Mem Fox’s Reading Magic. She wants us to have fun with our children, but at the same time, the adult is knowingly teaching early literacy skills by doing so many of the things you described in your post. I also think this can be connected to Text Talk, where you intentionally choose words from the text to talk about with children to build vocabulary. You define the word, use it in other contexts and give the children a chance to talk about experiences they’ve had that would be an example of the word. So many great ideas out there based on solid research. Lisa, if you love literacy and writing, make sure to read anything by Lucy Calkins if you haven’t already. Thanks again for an uplifting and important post!

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