Children who Love Language, Love Literacy
By Brenda Miles/Language Pathologist
First appeared in Story Time Felts' Consultant Newsletter: The Inside Story

Unlike the toys we buy our children, poems and nursery rhymes, especially those in felt, cannot break. Their flavor will last longer than a hundred boxes of candy. The rhymes come already assembled; the felt is cut only once and lasts a lifetime. And they all need only one "battery;" a caregiver (parent, grandparent, teacher, mentor) connected to one child. That critical connection can spark a glow that lasts forever.

Nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and Mother Goose stories have proven to be invaluable tools for promoting/enhancing the learning of speech/language. Finger plays are another vehicle for interactive language learning. It has been said,"When I hear, I forget; when I see, I remember; when I do, I understand." Felt educational products afford children the opportunity to see, touch, listen and learn in an integrated, interactive experience in the adventure of speech and language acquisition. The products also prepare them for reading by introducing pre-literacy skills.

Teaching reading is not the exclusive domain of teachers. There is a lot of learning that goes on long before a child ever experiences a classroom or any type of formal education. Research shows that certain kinds of language activities for the preschool child make a significant difference in the child's ability to make the connection from spoken sounds to the written symbols for the sounds starting with the alphabet. How can children crack the alphabetic code if they lack an appreciation for the value and fun of sounds?

Picture this scenario for either your child or the young one of someone you know. Billy has a reading disability. when he attempts to read aloud, he hesitates, mispronounces and makes repeated attempts to "sound out" a word as he labors to translate written symbols into sounds and blend the sounds into a word he knows or understands. In addition, if he is asked to explain what he has just read, he is often unable to do so. In his struggle to read (decode), most of his thinking (cognitive) resources were devoted to decoding the words into sounds; he's had no chance to even think about their meaning.

We all care about these children. Wouldn't it help parents to appreciate the value of Story Time Felts Nursery Rhymes, the Finger Play Fun and the accompanying tapes if we explain that they can "play" their child into a love for the sounds of our language? Then later they can help their children crack the alphabet code. Match the sounds for example, " Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" or the "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum" of the Giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk" to learn the letters/P/and /F/ in the Learning Letters or the ABC Train as my grandson Patrick discovered to do so.
Just ask my granddaughter Jan, what her favorite nursery rhyme is and she'll tell you it's "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Jan grew up on nursery rhymes and now, at almost five, delights in writing the letters of the alphabet that represent the sounds she's always loved.

Finger plays are such fun for children. Do they realize that they are acquiring valuable oral and written communication tools? Of course not. They just want to play. How about using as a finger play set, photos of each family member, even the pets. Let's see:

Jan studies and learns in kindergarten every day,
Patrick stays home with mommy to play, play, play.

Mommy gets the groceries, selling felt along the way.
Daddy goes to work on time so he can earn his pay.

Grandma joins them all at church to sing and pray.

Will they become aware of the sounds of language? Oh, Yes! They will even make up their own ending words to rhyming sentences. You can even use pieces from other sets to make up rhymes with the help of an older child or adult.

Just think, we seem to be "hard wired" for spoken language. Reading and writing come less naturally to us and require sound (phonological) awareness coupled with visual recognition (for letters) skills that do not always develop with ease. To quote a language specialist, "Phonological awareness and sound-letter recognition is necessary for word recognition, which is undoubtedly critical in reading success." (Blachman 1994) Who needs to know about the importance of Story Time Felts for language and literacy? Let's see: parents, grandparents, early childcare providers and teachers, librarians, pediatricians, colleges that prepare early childhood educators...and more.



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