April is the Month of the Young Child, and has been celebrated each year since its 1971 inception by the National Association for the Education of Young Children as a way to honor young children and thank teachers and all those who make a difference in young childrens lives.
The theme this year is Early Years Are Learning Years. The Month of the Young Child is our chance to recognize that the early childhood years (birth through age 8) lay the foundation for childrens success in school and later life. Today we know more than ever before about the importance of childrens earliest years in shaping their learning and development. Yet never before have the needs of young children and their families been more pressing. The Montelores Early Childhood Council and others are joining together to celebrate the Month of the Young Child as a time to recognize that childrens opportunities are our responsibilities, and to recommit ourselves to ensuring that each and every child experiences the type of early environment at home, at child care, at school, and in the community that will promote their early learning.
A fun way to celebrate with others in the community is by attending the second annual Early Childhood Celebration. The celebration is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at the Montezuma County Annex, 103 N. Chestnut, Cortez. Parents have the opportunity for free developmental hearing, vision, dental and social emotional screenings for their children from birth to age 5. Car seat checks will be available and new car seats and bike helmets will be available for purchase. Local preschools will be on hand with information and activities for parents to do with their children. There will also be entertainment like storytellers and musicians throughout the day and door prizes, too!
You can celebrate the Month of the Young Child at home by preparing your child for future learning. Simple conversations truly make a difference let them hear lots of words. Daily reading is essential and a sure way to promote early literacy skills (also referred to as prereading) is simple and age-old nursery rhymes.
Research has shown a strong link between the nursery rhyme knowledge of preschool children and their future success in reading and spelling. Hearing, learning and reciting nursery rhymes can help young children take the first steps toward becoming proficient readers. When a child learns nursery rhymes, they not only experience the joy of words, but are also developing early literacy skills such as phonemic awareness (awareness of the sounds that make up spoken words) and recognition of rhyming words. The strong rhythm of nursery rhymes helps children develop a sense of cadence, tone and pace that will help them be expressive readers later.
And they are fun! Having fun with words helps children learn to enjoy and value reading, and it is likely that children who enjoy reading will probably read more than those who do not. Nursery rhymes also help with emotional development because as you share a song or rhyme with a child, you are spending quality time together and this will develop memories that will be with your child for a lifetime. In addition, including movement while chanting or singing the rhymes engages both sides of your childs brain, and that aids in brain development. (Remember finger plays?) Acting out the nursery rhymes also encourages creativity.
Although we may think they are old, nursery rhymes are brand new to your child and hold an untold treasure of helping your child be ultimately successful in school. If your memory of nursery rhymes is hazy, local libraries have many books of rhymes to check out, and the Internet is a gold mine of sites with nursery rhymes and activities to do with your child. Spending a few minutes each day reading or singing nursery rhymes with a child is a simple, cost-effective and enjoyable way to promote early literacy at home.
Vangi McCoy is the coordinator for the Montelores Early Childhood Council and Early Childhood Education faculty at Southwest Colorado Community College and has been an educator for nearly thirty years. Stop by the MECC table at the Early Childhood Celebration for some nursery rhyme ideas. Vangi can be reached at [email protected].