Loyola Magazine

Tips for Fostering a Child’s Love for Literacy

Kristina Collins, division director of literacy at the Loyola Clinical Centers and clinical assistant professor, shares the importance of teaching children of all ages to develop an interest in reading
A book with it's pages curled up into a heart

Kristina Collins serves as division director of literacy at the Loyola Clinical Centers and clinical assistant professor at Loyola University Maryland. An educator with 20 years of experience teaching children and adults in public and privates schools, Collins specializes in preparing educators to become culturally and linguistically responsive teachers and reading specialists. Her research includes second language acquisition, language development for culturally and linguistically diverse students, and literacy education.

She shares with Loyola magazine the importance of how to teach children of all ages to develop a zeal for reading.

Kristina Collins

How has K-12 literacy education changed over the last decade?

Over the last decade, the pendulum in literacy education has swung long and hard from “whole language” to phonics and back again. But amid the noise, a consensus quietly formed: The need to build a strong foundation of phonics and decoding early on, but also nurture critical comprehension skills and a passion for reading.

The pandemic also highlighted the vital role of digital literacy, requiring us to expand our definition beyond pen and paper. This means embracing technology while recognizing its limitations, ensuring equitable access, and promoting responsible online behavior. Inclusivity is another rising tide. Literature reflects diverse voices and experiences, ensuring students see themselves reflected on the page. Authorship is expanding, too, offering windows into different cultures and perspectives. In short, literacy is no longer a static box of skills, but a vibrant mosaic shaped by changing times and needs.

How can you help a child discover the joys of reading and build skills?

Sparking a lifelong love of reading starts at the very beginning. Reading aloud to infants isn't just bonding time. It helps lay the foundation for language development. Their ears tune in to sounds and rhythms, building the bridge between spoken words and written text. As children mature, they witness the power of literacy through everyday examples, like their parents creating grocery lists or following recipes. These tangible demonstrations normalize the importance of literacy and language. It paves the way for independent exploration.

How can parents work toward addressing literacy and language development for multilingual kids?

One of the best things parents can do is continue to speak their first language at home. In the past, assimilation to the English language was a high priority, and home language was frowned upon. But this has shifted in a positive way. Research tells us that the more multilingual students are proficient in their first language, the better they are at building and adding English language into their linguistic repertoire.

Are there good ways for parents who do not speak a language other than English to expose their children to different languages?

The best way to expose children to the joy of learning a language is to expose them to environments where the target language is used and to people who speak the target language. This will foster authentic opportunities for children to utilize the new language to communicate, develop social and emotional skills, and enhance their cognitive development. Dual language education, two-way language immersion programs, and study abroad or exchange programs in the target language tend to the have the best outcomes for second-language acquisition—and there are community resources, such as our public libraries, that may have events and read-alouds in the target language.

What’s your biggest takeaway for families?

One of the most important things parents and guardians need to realize is that literacy is the foundation for everything we do. Reading and writing skills need to be explicitly taught and taught well. Here at Loyola, we teach future educators how to effectively teach literacy, so that their students can achieve both academic and personal development. This applies across all disciplines, making strong literacy skills essential for lifelong success.