Children’s author Emilie Buchwald wrote, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents”. The cumulative and growing research on early literacy would include ‘the laps of their teachers’ too. The more we know more about literacy development and acquisition the more we appreciate the role of early childhood environments in growing early literacy skills.
Early literacy is an emerging set of relationships between reading and writing. Young learners need reading to help them understand writing and writing to help them understand about reading. Oral language is needed to help them express their knowledge about both. These are dynamic relationships that begin in infancy and predict future learning success.
Based on the research, we understand that these relationships are situated in a broader communication network of speaking and listening, whose components work together to help the child negotiate the world and make sense of their experiences. (Siegler 2000) Research identifies three critical content categories in early literacy: oral language comprehension, phonological awareness (understanding of the sounds of language), and print knowledge (Senechal et al. 2001)
A literacy-enriched play environment provides countless opportunities for children to engage in valuable print experiences, interact with the alphabet, and lets them exercise their narrative skills. A preschool environment dedicated to creating and supporting literacy-rich classrooms will ensure the following for each classroom:
Print Rich Environments
Print should be everywhere! Words should be placed next to any visual clue to help children understand the value of print. A posted alphabet, name labels, item labels, and teacher writing will signal to young learners the value and necessity of print in daily life.
Dedicated spaces for the housing and sharing of books provide children a place to get lost in the magic of narrative. Books should be rotated so children are constantly exposed to different stories and varying forms of print. It is important for children to have access to the books that have been read to the group so they may further their narrative skills by retelling the story themselves.
A writing center is important to fine motor development and exploring the stages of writing. The narration a child provides to marks they have put on paper strengthens their oral language skills while supporting their growing understanding of print in playful ways.
Instruction that is Explicit and Planned
Developmentally appropriate literacy activities should be part of each days learning. Curriculum is established to support the teachers’ progression through age specific skills. Letter recognition, Phonemic and print awareness will be taught and modeled throughout the day with intention and purpose.
The immortal Dr. Seuss wisely wrote, “The more you read the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”. It is the universal goal of early childhood education to advance children’s understanding, exploration, and interaction with the world. Reading, writing, communicating are fundamental to this goal. Parents, teachers gather a child on your lap and read to them today.