How Young Children Learn to Read in HighScope Programs
This set of position papers explains how young children learn to read and write in High/Scope’s infant-toddler, preschool, and early elementary programs. Papers for each developmental level (a) describe how children at that level acquire these closely related and complementary literacy skills; (b) list the strategies High/Scope-trained teachers and caregivers use, in partnership with parents, to support reading and writing development in their programs and at home; (c) cite scientific research proving that the High/Scope approach works; and (d) answer questions frequently asked by educators, families, and policymakers. This summary presents the literacy development principles and strategies common to all three papers and describes the research findings that allow us to state unequivocally: Children learn to read and write in High/Scope programs.
Why High/Scope values children's development of reading and writing skills
High/Scope recognizes that learning to read and write are two of the most essential educational achievements. In High/Scope programs, reading and writing are viewed as interdependent abilities; children learn to read as they write and learn to write as they read. These twin components of literacy—reading and writing—are the gateway to learning and productivity in today’s information age. They open the door to academic advancement and job success and provide a pathway to lifelong learning, exploration, personal expression, and pleasure. While High/Scope is not unique in its attention to these literacy skills, it is unique in the comprehensiveness of its approach to literacy. Experiences that prepare children for reading and writing are included in every part of the High/Scope daily routine, and literacy-related materials are included in every area of the classroom, center, or home setting.
How young children learn to read and write: Underlying principles
Learning to read and write begins at birth and builds on children’s basic need to communicate. Reading and writing take place within a broader context of language development. In an active learning environment, children want to use language—indeed they eagerly choose to read, write, and converse with others—because they have meaningful things to communicate about and caring people to communicate with. Teachers and caregivers, in partnership with parents at home, promote this process by supporting and extending children’s emerging interests and by providing varied and stimulating materials and experiences.
Children learn to read and write at different rates and in different ways. High/Scope teachers and caregivers use a variety of educational strategies so children at all developmental levels and with a variety of learning styles can be successful in learning to read and write.
Children acquire literacy through key experiences in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Teachers and caregivers use these High/Scope key experiences, along with relevant state and local standards, as guidelines for structuring the learning environment, choosing educational materials, planning challenging activities, and supporting children’s literacy development with age-appropriate and individualized instructional methods. Since teachers and parents are equal partners in High/Scope’s educational approach, parents learn to recognize, support, and extend the key experiences in interactions with their children at home.
Reading and writing are best learned in contexts in which literacy skills are tied to meaning and comprehension. For infants and toddlers, this context might be reading and talking about stories while snuggling with a trusted caregiver or parent. For preschoolers, meaningful context may be representing a plan or personal experience through hand-drawn symbols and written words. For early elementary students, the context may be reading a book to gather background information and then writing a report related to a science or history project.
Children learn to read and write because they enjoy it and want to emulate adults. For young children, reading and writing should be generally pleasurable, not tedious. Over-attention to teaching correct form and the mechanics of spelling, grammar, and punctuation can discourage children’s early attempts to read and write. When young children are first encouraged to communicate by using their emerging literacy skills and are appropriately supported and guided by adults, they will learn to master conventional standards of literacy.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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