How the Literacy Center Enhances Children's Development
In a well-developed literacy center, children get the opportunity to practice important skills needed to become effective speakers, listeners, readers, and writers.
Speech is a crucial tool in expressing oneself. Oral language is also considered a building block or foundation for reading and writing (Searfoss, Readence, & Mallette, 2001). Through oral language, children gain essential background knowledge, experience language sounds that lead to phonological awareness, learn new vocabulary, and learn about the uses and conventions of language (Halle, Calkins, Berry, & Johnson, 2003, p. 2).
Children spend 65% to 90% of their time listening while in school settings (Gilbert, 2004, p. 20). However, of all the language arts, teachers place the least emphasis on helping children develop listening skills (Smith, 2003; Timm & Schroeder, 2000) causing some to call it the “forgotten language art” (Tompkins, 2005). A well-developed literacy center can help develop these important skills.
Print awareness allows a child to understand the organization of print and that print carries meaning. This includes concepts of print such as the distinction between a letter, word, sentence, or paragraph. Also included is that print has a direction (left to right, top to bottom in the English language) and occurs in a particular order (beginning, middle, and end in a story). Another important component of print awareness is that print can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, to give direction and information, to provide pleasure, and to communicate with others (Searfoss et al., 2001).
“The term phonological awareness refers to a general appreciation of the sounds of speech as distinct from their meaning” (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998, p. 51). This includes learning that oral language is composed of sounds that can be segmented (divided) and blended. Children usually begin this process with learning about rhyming, then sentence segmenting, syllable segmenting and blending, onsets (initial word sounds) and rime (middle and ending word sounds), and finally individual phonemes (smallest unit of sound) (Chard & Dickson, 1999).
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