Early Literacy Skills
Unfortunately, many parents judge the value of a preschool by how much reading is taught there. The philosophy that underlies this book does not support this measure, although it does support parents' belief that reading is important.
After reviewing a large body of research on how children become good readers, a panel of experts commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that having a preschool language and literacy foundation is important for later reading success (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). That foundation involves all kinds of experiences with stories, conversation, word play, books, and other meaningful print (signs, notes, lists, directions, etc.). Its most important component is a rich vocabulary, in whatever language or languages the child speaks. Providing the range of experiences that will build a strong foundation is more important in the long run than simply teaching children to recite the alphabet or to read simple books.
A good preschool, from this point of view, provides children with daily opportunities to "read" or look at books and to sing songs, listen to stories and poems, and tell and act out stories as they play with toys and with their friends. It paves the way for fluent reading by providing experiences that do the following:
- Increase children's use of language
- Increase children's knowledge base
- Promote the enjoyment of books and stories and the motivation to read
- Show children the many different ways that adults use reading and writing in their daily lives
- Encourage children to communicate through "writing" and drawing and to incorporate "reading" and writing into their play
- Help children associate printed and spoken words
- Help children develop specific skills that are related to reading success—namely, phonological awareness (recognizing the sounds that make up words), print concepts (such as reading left to right and having spaces between words), and letter naming
- Help children feel good about themselves and confident that they can learn new things
- Teach children to follow directions
- Help children to attend to a task until they have completed it
The Foundations of Emergent Literacy
There is a great deal of recent research about the components of early literacy and about effective ways to support children's emergent literacy. Five major areas have been identified as essential to literacy development:
- A meaningful knowledge base is developed through having many varied experiences with materials, places, and people. Vocabulary building occurs through talking about those experiences.
- Oral language is developed through participating in back and forth communication, individual conversations, and group discussions. Looking at books and having books read aloud to them also promote children's oral language skills.
- Phonological awareness is developed through noticing sounds, playing with the sounds of words, and noticing what sound a word begins with. Children enjoying rhyming words in songs and stories.
- Print awareness is developed as children notice the usefulness of print. This occurs as they experiment with making notes and scribbling and as they find a word in a line of print.
- Alphabet knowledge is developed as children recognize and name letters and name the letter that represents a certain sound.
© ______ 2006, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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