Early Literacy & Its Impact On Our Children's Futures
Too many children struggle with reading today. As many as 40 percent of our children still do not learn to read fluently enough to fully comprehend [at the appropriate grade level] what they are reading. Research indicates these children do not catch up later on, are ill-equipped to use reading to learn across the curriculum, and are ill-prepared for the literacy demands of the jobs of the future. At the same time, however, The National Early Literacy Panel reviewed more than 100,000 studies and determined that extensive knowledge now exists on methods to teach children the skills they need to read well.
A number of predictors of reading success do not determine a child's later success or failure, but they do tell us what we need to do in a child's early years to increase their probability of success. These predictors include:
- Good verbal skills
- Phonological and phonemic awareness
- Letter knowledge
- Print awareness
- Background knowledge
- Invented spelling
- Familiarity with the basic purposes and parts of the reading process
In addition, experiences with storybook reading, talking about books, listening comprehension and writing are also vital. Children need a wide array of language and literacy experiences.
Early literacy simply means the skills, knowledge and attitudes that come before and lead up to conventional reading and writing. It includes learning about communication (talking and listening), the sounds of a spoken language, reading and writing, and the world around us. Thanks to research and much classroom experience, we now have a wide variety of specific ways to give children of all ages good early literacy experiences that will build a foundation for a love of reading to support lifelong learning. Leading research indicates that these literacy-rich experiences can begin as early as infancy and expand throughout early childhood. Simple strategies that support early literacy learning are cost-effective and easy. These are some strategies:
- Making books and literacy materials readily available to children
- Permitting children to hold books, play with them, and chew them
- Provide plastic books for bathtub fun
- Providing writing materials within easy reach
- Songs and rhymes, including silly ones, to foster the knowledge of sounds and parts of words
- Posting letters and names of items around the environment
Since research is continually conducted, synthesized and refined, early childhood staff need high-quality, ongoing professional development in best practices. This will enable the children they teach to realize strong literacy outcomes. To be on the cutting edge of language and literacy instruction, preschool teachers and parents need to engage in continual child-centric knowledge development.
The development of reading skills, as with other skills, occurs along a continuum. The continuum illustrates the general path along which a child develops in a learning area over time. A continuum is not rigid or necessarily sequential, but serves as a tool to monitor children's progress.
You make a tremendous difference in the life of each child you encounter. Your efforts every day to enhance the early literacy and later learning outcomes of these children will never be measured in dollars, but in quality of life for these children and many beyond. Every child deserves the chance to succeed in our wonderfully diverse nation.