At its core, literacy can connect two or more people across space and time, and it can take many forms. A feeling or idea in one person gets captured in a medium, like print, art, video, or speech, and that medium conveys the feeling or meaning to another.
In this time of isolation and loneliness for just about everybody, literacy can be a key lifeline to supporting each other. Literacy can be a powerful glue that holds our worlds together when we can’t reach out and physically touch others.
The challenge we face as family, friends and educators is to raise our children to be able to comfortably and effectively share what they want and need, what they’re thinking, and what they’re curious about. The preparation for this critical path into community membership starts on the day of a baby’s birth. The most powerful period of learning, and intellectual and social growth starts that day. With support, what starts early never ends. Sadly, for children for whom engaging in literacy doesn’t start early, they’re held back in communicating with and bringing joy and benefits to others, and miss out on reaping similar benefits and emotional delights in return.
Babies in utero can hear voices of their mothers, and others who come close enough, and they can hear environmental sounds, like the barking of the dog or the hum of the car engine. They begin even then to make sense of what they physically feel and hear. At birth what they see, touch and taste is added to their developmental experiences. Therefore, anything a family or community can do to add richness and variety to the youngster’s connections is educational. One of the only mistakes we can make is to wait.
Putting off reading to a baby, drawing with a toddler, singing and dancing with a preschooler, and Zooming with grandparents, or afterward failing to invite small ones into discussing each of those events ultimately delays critical mental connections and postpones the growth opportunities that all of these interactions so powerfully provide. It’s critical for all of us to remember that varied literacies involve tinies in the fullest possible participation in life and ultimately help them lay foundation of their very own futures.
New baby? Fabulous toddler? Genius pre-schooler?
Congratulations! Start sharing delightful literacy experiences with them today.