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Parents are a Child's First Teachers

November 7, 2021

From the time they are born, we are teaching our children. We teach them how to talk, how to walk, and do all we can to help them to grow into happy, healthy individuals. When my children were very young, I had more time than money, so I did what parents have been doing forever – I became their first teacher. I allowed them to help with household tasks and made sure we had plenty of books, art supplies, and toys that encouraged imaginative play. I didn't call it "homeschooling," but that's what was happening. It was fun, and it was fabulous!

I found all the guidance I needed through the information available at our local library. The library was our regular once-a-week activity. During that time, the libraries we visited were in counties that had limited resources. They didn't have children's programming, so we did our own version of story time at home. We sang songs, counted, recited our ABCs and 1-2-3s, read stories, colored pictures, and worked on easy crafts.

I knew that what I was doing with my children was beneficial; they were getting what they needed to be ready for kindergarten. Fast forward about a million years, and in 2017 Harvard researchers determined that parents are pretty good teachers. The study showed that children in expensive preschool programs do not have an advantage over children who have an involved parent. We love nursery school (I was an afternoon lead teacher in a nursery school for five years), but we also love that nursery school isn't the only option for giving children a good preschool foundation.

The American Library Association encourages children's preschool library programmers to emphasize five basic activities to successfully prepare children for kindergarten. These five activities are: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing with your child every day. Nashville Public Library's Read to Rise program provides a monthly calendar of activities and literacy tips, plus math and science to help parents and caregivers teach through everyday opportunities. Nashville Public Library also has many helpful educational resources available for checkout. A few of my favorites are listed below.

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Donna Reagan has served as Children's Specialist at the Bellevue Branch Library since 2002. She produces My Storytime Place, a local TV show for young children. The ALA's Every Child Ready to Read initiative forms the foundation of her early childhood programming.