November 28, 2016

Rachael Rufino

Milestone Series: Literacy Development


Children reading.jpg

Children reading.jpg

Early literacy begins during the first three years of life, creating a foundation that empowers children to understand the relationships between reading and writing.  These childhood literacy experiences are crucial to developing life skills, such as socializing and money management.  Understanding which literacy materials are appropriate for your child, and how to spot and address literacy difficulties are vital to early language teaching.  Research studies on early literacy have helped create learning timelines and given parents and teachers the tools they need to answer the following questions: What should a child learn before they start kindergarten?  Where does someone begin when teaching a child the fundamentals of language? 

From age one to three, a baby’s brain produces 700 new neuro connections every second, making this a crucial time for literacy development.  During this time, children often express interest in nursery rhymes, “chunky” board and cloth books, simple stories and counting.  Learning to speak, listen, understand and draw are the skills that need to be established before reading and writing.  This will aid in connecting purpose and feelings to the written word later on.  Demonstrating reading practices by properly orienting a book, turning its pages, and reading left to right help children understand the process of reading.  Using your finger to point to words as they are read aloud show children that the marks on the page have meaning.  All of these steps help establish the building blocks necessary for communicating through the written word. 

In addition to learning letter sounds and words, reading comprehension and literature discussion are equally important.  By age four, many children enjoy being read to and can orally communicate details about those stories.  Here is one teacher’s story time process: 

Before reading- The teacher begins by saying, “Let’s look at the picture on the cover of the book. The boy in the story [There’s an Alligator Under my Bed] has a big problem.  Can anyone guess what that problem is?  How do you think the boy will get rid of the alligator?”

During reading- After reading the first section of the book, which introduces the boy’s problem, the teacher pauses and asks, “Do you have any other ideas about how the boy might get rid of the alligator?  What do you think the alligator is going to do?”

After reading- The teacher sparks a discussion of the book by asking, “What did you like best about the story?  How would you have gotten rid of that alligator?” 

Discussion after a story helps children comprehend the storyline and encourages them to consider their own feelings about it.  An activity related to the story may also be implemented to help reinforce the plot.

Storytelling class.jpg

Research has shown that early literacy is most effective through a variety of reading experiences, such as reading a menu, a price tag, a recipe, and words on a television screen. Aside from reading in a library or right before bedtime, pointing out that reading takes place during day-to-day activities everywhere helps children understand that literacy equals communication and independence.  Being literate enables a person to communicate effectively in school, the workplace and other social environments, purchase items, and navigate through familiar and unfamiliar places.  Showing children how empowering and fun literacy is will help them feel excited about learning.

Children learn at different rates and may show signs that they are struggling with literacy.  Early signs of literacy difficulty may appear as early as age three, indicating that a child may need extra help.  It is important to note that during early literacy, it is natural for a child to struggle occasionally with writing and reading.  If a child is struggling most of the time, seek advice.  Some signs of literacy difficulty include a child not using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence (i.e., “I go school” instead of, “I’m going to school”), using incorrect endings of words (i.e., “She dance with me” should be, “She danced with me”), struggling to follow the sequence of events in books, or not knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and sound.

Literacy Development.jpg

During early literacy it is important that a child receives the support needed to succeed.  This includes being given reading material that is age appropriate- literature that is too easy may create boredom and literature that is too difficult may create frustration.  A positive learning atmosphere with teachers and parents working together to communicate a student’s progress and needs will also foster their literacy development.  Setting your child up for literacy success also means ensuring they are organized for school, have scheduled reading times at home and reading materials that are of interest to them.

 The process of early language learning is a complex and dynamic, but by providing appropriate reading materials, discussing stories while connecting them to life experiences, and addressing literacy difficulties, a child can develop a strong foundation for socialization and independence.  Continued research on early literacy will help further pin point specific content necessary for its instruction.  In the meantime, we must continue to be mindful in our teaching methods and set children up for a positive and thriving future as literate beings.


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