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How To Encourage Literacy Without Teaching

Girl Reading 1984 George Orwell UmbrellaAs a former teacher, I’m a big believer in not really “teaching” anything. In my perfect world, my children would be self-motivated learners and discover everything on their own. I’d just be the facilitator to help them achieve their goals.

Of course, the world is not perfect. So, some teaching is required. But I honestly believe that kids are more invested in learning when they find things out on their own. Learning becomes play and play becomes learning.

I intend to stick with this philosophy as long as it works, and I’m starting now. In fact, I started when my toddlers were babies.

However, as any teacher will tell you, nothing really happens by itself. The tools to make these discoveries must be provided, and the opportunities to use these tools must be presented. Here are some ways you can encourage your toddler to be interested in learning to read, write, and have some basic number sense without sitting them down and directly instructing them.
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  • Have tangible letters and numbers around. 1 of 10
    Have tangible letters and numbers around.
    Feeling the shape of the numbers and letters gives them another way to get to know them. They might have an easier time if they learn through touching, and be curious about the names of each interesting shape.
  • Let them see you reading. 2 of 10
    Let them see you reading.
    Children learn by example. If they see you doing it, they'll want to do it too.
  • Encourage observation of environmental print. 3 of 10
    Encourage observation of environmental print.
    Environmental print is just what it sounds like; Street signs, restaurant titles, words on the cereal box, etc.
  • Let them see you writing. 4 of 10
    Let them see you writing.
    Make lists, write checks, notes, etc. My toddler writes a "shopping list" every time I do. Even though his is scribble, he usually remembers more items than I do.
  • Give them writing opportunities. 5 of 10
    Give them writing opportunities.
    Again, even if it's just scribble, if they want to write, let them write.
  • Have them count out their snack. 6 of 10
    Have them count out their snack.
    "You can have eight crackers."
  • Count on your fingers. 7 of 10
    Count on your fingers.
    Our hands are natural calculators built in to our bodies. Don't let anyone tell you counting on your fingers is a bad thing. I still do it, don't you?
  • Place brightly colored letters and numbers in accessible places 8 of 10
    Place brightly colored letters and numbers in accessible places
    Refrigerator (or Washing Machine) Magnets are a great way to expose your child to letters and numbers. It also lets them touch and hold them like I mentioned above.
  • Read to them. 9 of 10
    Read to them.
    As if you haven't been told this before:The more you read to your child, the better.
  • Have siblings read to them. 10 of 10
    Have siblings read to them.
    Toddlers want to be just like their older brothers and sisters. If they can read, they'll want to read, too.

Photo Credits
Oväntat: Flickr/Linda Aslund
Girl Reading: Flickr/o5com
| 5 |: Flickr/Emi Yanez
Share the Road: Flickr/Hey Paul
To Do List: Flickr/Florian
Kid To Do List: Flickr/Carissa Rogers
Animal Cookies: Flickr/S.Diddy
Five: Flickr/woodleywonderworks
Magnets?!? Foo?: Flickr/Mark and Allegra
Caught: Flickr/madgerly
Sibling reading: Flickr/Julie, Dave & Family

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