By Tzvetelina Sabkova
When I first heard about early literacy, I associated it with getting a head start on reading.
It turns out that there’s far more to it!
Simply put, early literacy is all about pre-reading skills and language awareness.These habits and skills picked up in the early years have a lasting effect on how our children learn right up into middle school and beyond.
At MyLibook, especially with this unusual school year, we think that understanding the ins and outs of early literacy can empower parents and caregivers to knowingly coach children in these skills.
Ready to learn more about early literacy, why it affects long term learning, and how we can foster it at home?
What is early literacy?
In 2002 the National Early Literacy Panel identified key practices to help children set up lifelong learning skills. The panel outlined six early literacy skills that scientific studies found to be precursors to the development of reading and writing skills.
- alphabet knowledge (AK): knowledge of the names and sounds associated with printed letters
- phonological awareness (PA): the ability to detect, manipulate, or analyze the auditory aspects of spoken language (including the ability to distinguish or segment words, syllables, or phonemes), independent of meaning
- rapid automatic naming (RAN) of letters or digits: the ability to rapidly name a sequence of random letters or digits
- RAN of objects or colors: the ability to rapidly name a sequence of repeating random sets of pictures of objects (e.g., “car,” “tree,” “house,” “man”) or colors
- writing or writing name: the ability to write letters in isolation on request or to write one’s own name
- phonological memory: the ability to remember spoken information for a short period of time
— Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel
Why is early literacy important for young children?
When working on early literacy skills, parents and educators are supporting the acquisition of reading skills. These skills are essential as a lack of grade-appropriate reading capability has real consequences for children, not only in elementary school but also during middle school.
Ryan Fan, a Baltimore middle school English teacher and Top Writer on Medium, shared his experience on how a lack of these skills can affect students aged from 12 to 15.
Ryan explained that one of the biggest challenges his students encountered was the correct use of phonics.
Although teachers in middle school are aware that not all students have the same level reading skills, in some cases they still need to review the basics on how to read.
When students find reading difficult, it can lead to them becoming overwhelmed by the quantity of assignments for their grade, which in turn is demotivating. Helping our kids learn early literacy skills, therefore, can set the stage for a more enjoyable learning experience all the way up to middle school and beyond.
What can parents do to support the development of early literacy skills?
Luckily fostering early literacy is easier than one might think. A little extra attention in everyday activities can go a long way. In the frame of the Every Child Ready to Read program, experts have identified five simple and fun practices to incorporate in regular life and routines (and homeschooling activities) that help children develop these skills.
Playing is the most enjoyable way forchildren to gain new skills. Learning new words, letters, and sounds with games, will help them become familiar with a variety of words they will later recognize when reading on their own.
Talking is an easy and natural process that helps humans create connections. Through the simple action of talking with our children we can model language by using full sentences and varied vocabulary.
Singing allows children to hear syllables. Songs are also a great source of new words that are easy to memorize thanks to the rhymes and rhythm.
Reading together expands the child’s vocabulary. Parents can start reading to their children from birth and keep up the good habit by trying to find daily opportunities to read. Also, make sure children are surrounded with a positive reading environment.
Writing is a natural activity for adults but children need support to realize that the marks on paper represent spoken language. Writing activities also help children learn letter names and sounds.
Early Literacy in Action
As a mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, I feel that there are early literacy opportunities everywhere, every day.
To learn letter recognition we use a wooden puzzle. I sound out a letter and he chooses the right letter and places it in the correct spot on the board.
Now he practices independently by reading all the letters he recognizes on the street, such as on billboards and license plates (he loves cars!).
We also listen to this excellent phonics song. It works so well that it’s become a bit of an earworm for me!
Thinking about different ways to apply the same knowledge has proved to be an efficient technique for us. For instance talking about fruit and vegetables. He finds them in books, he touches them when we go grocery shopping. He eats them. He has a vegetable wooden set to practice cutting them. This creates many opportunities to enrich his vocabulary and gain real life experiences.
Finally, I use playdough to shape letters. My son was able to reproduce some of the easy to write letters like C, U, V, T, and H the very first time we played the game.
You can find daily early literacy inspirations on the Mylibook Instagram account.
What are your early literacy tips?
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