How the Literacy Center Enhances Children's Development (page 3)
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).
Alphabet Principle and Phonemic Awareness
The alphabet principle and phonemic awareness is the understanding that there is a relationship between letters and sounds and that words have a structure made of sounds and sound patterns (Epstein, 2007).
Positive Attitude Toward Reading
To become proficient in using literacy, children must have a positive attitude toward reading and writing. Positive attitudes often result in increased motivation to read and write. As children engage in additional practice, they typically become more proficient. Children who like to read have often had an abundance of positive experiences being read to. They view reading and writing as pleasurable and something that they are successful at. For example, to persist at reading, children need to experience a 90% to 95% rate of success (Neuman, Copple, & Bredekamp, 2000).
Enhancement of Other Curricular Areas
In addition to learning specific literacy skills in the literacy center, children also have the opportunity to
- increase knowledge in all curriculum areas.
- learn about new worlds, both real and imaginary.
- cope more effectively with difficulties. Stories can help children realize that others have had similar experiences. Books can provide information on coping strategies and answer questions that children might have. They can also act as a springboard to open dialogue about a difficult situation.
- improve social interactions. Children learn literacy skills through social interaction and social skills are enhanced by increased language skills.
- be entertained and experience enjoyment.
Through using an effective literacy center, children gain skills in literacy and other curricular areas.
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