Few society expects a child to participate

Few would argue that a connection  between parent and child is important. Modern society expects a child to participate in a plethora of extracurricular activities -Soccer practice, ballet, spell bowl practice, church youth group  all take a toll on this bond. So does the spectre of an absentee parent through divorce, incarceration or death.  A parent can be physically present in a child’s life yet fail to make a significant impact.  Substance abuse, narcissistic personalities etc..  All of these variables have an effect not only on the bond, but on the academic life of the child.  Students who begin as below level readers will, sadly, continue this pattern throughout their academic career. A child’s level of alphabet recognition entering kindergarten is a predictor of reading proficiency at the highschool level. If a child reads below grade level at the end of first grade, statistics show that there is a 90% chance that the same child will be a poor reader at the the conclusion of 4th grade.  (Boyer, 1991) Parental involvement is the single most critical factor in the literacy development of an emergent reader because it helps foster language development, introduces a child to the concepts of print, and increases comprehension skill through dialogic reading. A child begins developing language skills long before he/she can speak. Likewise, literacy skills are developed before a child can actually demonstrate reading proficiency. (National Research Council, 1998)  The example a parent sets through reading activities in the home can foster aptitude as a fluent reader. Parents need to be aware of the  impact that  home literacy activities have on the child’s future as a student.  Basic, everyday activities can lead to a stronger reader, consequently, a more successful student.    One of the best activities to stimulate language skills and cognitive development is reading aloud to a child (Bardige, 2009).  “In the first three years, infants and toddlers begin acquiring the first of thousands of words they will use throughout their lives. Simultaneously, children are learning the rules of grammar as well as absorbing the social conventions that exist around communication in their community.” ( Im, 2007).  Familiar stories and family conversations can spark language development. A child will notice the speech patterns of their parents or simple repetitions in a story.  They learn that printed words have meaning.  New vocabulary expands a child’s world. Concept books are a choice resource for parental reading to a preschool child.  These books present specific concepts that  that children need to master in order to succeed in school. Concept books can introduce a child to basic colors, shapes, sizes, matching pictures to words, thus illustrating that print has real world meaning.  Stories that will enrich a child’s language development ideally have both dialogue and narration,  repeated words and phrases, and new vocabulary.    Understanding the concepts of print is a key predictor in a child’s fluency and accuracy. In its most basic definition it is how print works.  Children don’t instinctively know that books are  read top to bottom or left to right.  They don’t initially understand that words can tell a story.  A parent can influence a child’s future reading behaviors by simply pointing out features of a book – the title, an individual letter, a complete word, the first word and last words on a page. As the child becomes more familiar with books, the parent should strive to have the child recognize these properties. Depending on the development of the child, ask the child to point to the front or back of the book, an upper or lower case letter, or where the parent should begin reading. Ask the child what information the front and back cover tell us before beginning the story.  Every story read is an opportunity for the parent to reinforce the function and form of print. Parents also need to understand the alphabetic principle  when explaining the concepts of print.  The alphabetic principle is the “understanding that words are made of letters, which stand for the sound we say when we say words.  It includes the understanding that by putting letters together in different ways, we make different words”(Holdgreve-Resendez, 2010a).  Help children notice and learn to recognize high frequency words that occur often in children’s books, such as a, the, is, was, and you. This will increase sight word recognition and fluency.  While all of the skills are important, perhaps the one that has the most impact as the reader matures is that of comprehension. Throughout his or her academic career, a child must be able to understand what they have read, and provide not just rote details, but make inferences as well. Typical reading involves a parent reading to the child.  Dialogic reading is defined as prompting children with questions to engage them in discussions while reading to them.  The goal is to help the child become the storyteller.   The PEER sequence  outlines a structure for dialogic reading that parents can utilize.  P prompts the child to comment on the story.  The parent then Evaluates the response.  By rephrasing the child’s response and Expanding on it the parent encourages the child to Repeat the response, or repeats it to the child to ensure understanding, and the expansion (readingrockets.com)   This activity can begin a as simply as pointing to a picture and asking the child’s what the picture is.    A car –   that’s right – a big blue car.  The dog is driving a big blue car.  The parent would evaluate by as either praising a correct answer or giving the child the correct answer.  Then the parent would expand, or add detail to the child’s original answer.  The parent would repeat the answer or request the child to repeat it  to make sure the child retains.  This primary activity is crucial to comprehension.  By the age of 2, children who are read to exhibit greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers. (Raikes, 2006). This skill is especially important on standardized tests, when a child will be asked to support the topic sentence of an essay with supporting details from the text.  Reading sparks curiosity and can improve memory ( Bardige, 2009) leading to increased comprehension.Parental involvement is the single most critical factor in the literacy development of an emergent reader because it helps foster language development, introduces a child to the concepts of print, and increases comprehension skill through dialogic reading.When parents read to children, discussing the main idea of the story,  asking open-ended questions, explaining the meaning of new words, and pointing out concepts of print, they increase language development, comprehension of story content, knowledge of story structure, and a better understanding of language– all of which lead to literacy success (Berk, 2009).