Why do we partner with parents?

Firm Foundations partners with parents and caregivers because raising literate children is so much more than reading, spelling, and writing. Although those are critical life skills in today’s society, literacy is much richer and more involved than simply decoding printed text into words. It involves understanding and using our language. We need it to gain information, express ideas, and store knowledge we need or love. It is a fundamental means of communication. It is more permanent than a conversation. It allows you to progress at their own pace. You can slow down, speed up, or go back later and review. You can read for pleasure or information.

Being a literate individual opens new worlds where imaginations can soar and dreams come to life. Literacy helps develop critical thinkers, because readers are exposed to different ideas and ways of doing things.

Get started early.

Children need to understand that reading is a way of associating sounds that we make when speaking with printed letters. So the reading process itself begins early, with speaking and sounds. Young children need to be engaged in conversations real-time with real people. They thrive when someone reads aloud to them. Books and other printed material should be a familiar sight. Trips to the library are adventures. And it is important that they see the adults in their life reading too.

Recognize reading is a learned skill.

While being surrounded by books and being read to are important, it is not enough. Unlike learning to speak, surrounding a child with books usually does not help him/her learn to read. Reading is a learned skill. With rare exceptions, children must be taught to decode a printed word by associating a sound or sounds with written letters. Sure there are a number of words that have to be memorized. But isn't having to memorize a small percentage of words better than having to memorize everything? It makes the process faster, easier, and more fun. And children who can read quickly and accurately usually have better comprehension. They can focus their energy on content and meaning instead of struggling to figure out the word.

But what about spelling? Are those skills really necessary with all the technology available? Think Spell Checker.

While those programs are useful, they are not fool-proof. Spell checker only flags words that are spelled incorrectly, not incorrect words. So, you type in “they’re cat” or “there cat” and spell checker may not do anything. Understanding correct spelling helps you type in “their cat” instead.

OK, but why learn to print or use cursive handwriting if there is a keyboard handy?

Good question. Learning to print and write in cursive uses additional senses in a way that keyboarding does not. Forming the letters by hand helps children build additional neural pathways that pushing keys on a keyboard may not achieve. While it may be easier to use a keyboard, many find that writing out information by hand helps to remember it longer.

Can’t you just use text-to-speech software?

That technology is great for capturing thoughts quickly – especially if something is preventing you from writing or using a keyboard. But the way information is communicated in writing is very different than the way it is communicated through speech. As listeners, we are more patient with pauses, restarts, ummms, and uhs than we are as readers. We may not like to hear them, but we will tolerate them. Not so with printed material. So using text-to-speech software would need to be heavily edited at the very least. You would still need to know the rules for writing and spelling for a successful final product.

It takes some time and lots of practice. But mastering these life skills gives your child an important advantage.