Emergent Literacy: Early Reading and Writing Development
Children start to learn language from the day they are born. As they grow and develop, their speech and language skills become increasingly more complex. They learn to understand and use language to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and to communicate with others. During early speech and language development, children learn skills that are important to the development of literacy (reading and writing). This stage, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.
Children see and interact with print (e.g., books, magazines, grocery lists) in everyday situations (e.g., home, in preschool, and at daycare) well before they start elementary school. Parents can see their child's growing appreciation and enjoyment of print as he or she begins to recognize words that rhyme, scribble with crayons, point out logos and street signs, and name some letters of the alphabet. Gradually, children combine what they know about speaking and listening with what they know about print and become ready to learn to read and write.
Are Spoken Language and Literacy Connected?
Yes. The experiences with talking and listening gained during the preschool period prepare children to learn to read and write during the early elementary school years. This means that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to experience difficulties learning literacy skills than those who do not.
One spoken language skill that is strongly connected to early reading and writing is phonological awareness " the recognition that words are made up of separate speech sounds, for example, that the word dog is composed of three sounds: /d/, /o/, /g/. There are a variety of oral language activities that show children's natural development of phonological awareness, including rhyming (e.g., "cat-hat") and alliteration (e.g., "big bears bounce on beds"), and isolating sounds ("Mom, /f/ is the first sound in the word fish").
As children playfully engage in sound play, they eventually learn to segment words into their separate sounds, and "map" sounds onto printed letters, which allows them to begin to learn to read and write. Children who perform well on sound awareness tasks become successful readers and writers, while children who struggle with such tasks often do not.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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