The process of becoming literate — learning about all the print forms of language and using them to communicate — begins at birth. In literate communities children come into contact with written language from infancy. This occurs when adults consciously bring children into contact with print (e.g., when they read to children or provide toys with print). Further, children may see print on television or in the environment in general. This exposure to print is the beginning of the process of learning to read and write that continues to emerge throughout the early childhood years.
- Educators cannot pinpoint a time at which literacy begins. It is gained through experience with oral language and print.
- The process of reading, writing, and speaking, develop simultaneously and are interdependent.
- A child may use self-determined symbols or letters to represent words or syllables which may be meaningless to adults, but a child can read to retell a story.
- The process of memorizing and “reading” the story back prior to knowing the specific words is a crucial step in gaining confidence to continue reading.
- Literacy is developed when letter recognition and auditory discrimination are combined with content. Isolating one or the other does not extend the child’s learning or create meaningful understanding.
- Singing predictable texts (repeating/rhyming songs) helps to build: listening skills, oral language, phonological awareness, vocabulary, word recognition, and print motivation (enjoyment).
What can we do to promote literacy for children?
- Establish a positive climate to support literacy learning. This should be in the primary language of the family while introducing a second language. An important consideration in facilitating the process of learning to read and write is that preschoolers are more likely to want to read and write and be less inhibited about taking risks in trying to read and write when the mechanics of reading and writing are not the primary focus.
- Use play to facilitate reading and writing. Using one toy to represent another helps to build symbolic thought and action which is critical to learning to use letters and words to represent meaning. Add books and environmental print to play areas. Provide a wide variety of books, writing utensils, and papers to make reading and writing fun.
- Create a positive physical learning environment. A comfortable, cozy chair or pillow can promote reading. Talk with each other throughout the day. Read signs everywhere you go in the car, at the store, or at home. Give children easy access to writing instruments and paper for self-directed use. Help your child create their own books or magazines that reflect the child’s interests. Use recorders, tablets, phones, etc. to let your child record their own voice reading or retelling a story and then let them listen to it. Help children visually compare and contrast the letter shapes and sound similarities of words or letters. Develop charts with both words and pictures for the child to “read” and create associations for activities during their day (go to school, ride in the car, get dressed, eat, bathe, etc.)
- Read aloud to children daily. Reading daily is an excellent way to build literacy, create bonds between the child and parent, and model the parent’s value of literacy.
“Early Literacy Development: A Focus on Preschool” by Connecticut State Department of Education