Not just another language acquisition lesson!

K-12 Reading Specialist Ana Adams, tells us that her experience tells her that with the support of parents, caregivers, early childhood educators, and with exposure to a literacy-rich environment, children progress from emergent to conventional reading.

With interaction through reading aloud and conversation, children are exposed to learning early. In this process, it is very important to read aloud to children and provide them with the opportunities to talk about the stories that they hear.

Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, and Wilkinson (1985) state, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children, especially during the preschool years”.

There is no doubt that this helps the children develop oral language, cognitive skills, and concepts of print and phonemic awareness.

Children read to develop background knowledge about various of topics and build a large vocabulary. These aid them in later comprehension and development of reading strategies. Children also watch how others read and therefore become familiar with the reading process, i.e. they are constantly learning.

Many children enter elementary school without a strong background in literacy, and these are the ones who are most at risk of developing reading problems.  To provide high chances of success and successful upbringing, teachers should be involved in professional development to learn more about child development as it relates to literacy acquisition.

At age 3-4, children begin to “read” their favourite books by themselves and begin to use “mock handwriting” (Clay, 1975).  At age 5, in kindergarten, most children are considered emergent readers, they make rapid growth in literacy skills if they are exposed to literacy-rich environments (Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999).

Children will try to recall what has been written or can use a picture created with the text to reread instead of using the letter clues (Kamberelis & Sulzby, 1988; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

They are beginning to apply phonetic knowledge to create invented spellings, but before they use phonetic clues to read what they write a certain amount of time will pass.

The parents who choose to home-school their children have an enormous advantage to teach children phonetic knowledge, sight words and decoding before they enter school.  This learning advantage gives them power with text that will not be equipped with further on.

Most children become early readers during the first grade and they commonly look at the beginning and ending letters in order to decode unfamiliar words (Clay, 1991; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998) as they know a small number of sight words.

By second grade, the children become transitional readers, i.e. are able to read unknown text with more independence.  While reading they use meanings, grammar, letter cues, together with a picture. (Clay, 1991; International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Pinnell, 1996b; Snow, burns, & Griffin, 1998).  They can and apply spelling rules, patterns, and other strategies to put words on paper.

By the third grade, the children are typically fluent readers, reading for meaning, focusing less on decoding.  They may use transitional and phonetic spellings in order to spell infrequently used words.

As the child’s literacy development evolves the child’s concept of words changes.  Children construct their own knowledge, and in this sense comes the difference between how an adult understands reading and writing and how a child understands these.

Children develop through several categories of phonological skills – from rhyming to blending.  The most difficult task is the complete segmentation of phonemes and manipulation of them to form new words (Griffith & Olson, 1992; Hall & Moats, 1999).

If we teach our children how to segment and manipulate phonemes at the pre-school age, they will have the tools necessary to spell correctly, understand the meaning of words and be able to write and read complete sentences with ease.

In order to determine children’s literacy needs screen and assessment are essential. Results from the tests help teachers identify children who are developing at a less than normal pace and are in need of intervention.

The earlier these children are found – the better.  Throughout kindergarten and first grade, children should be screened for phonemic awareness, alphabetic knowledge, and an understanding of basic language concepts (Texas Education Agency, 1997). This will give a better overview of the grounds they have and will enable the better upgrade of their knowledge.

Performance-based assessments, such as observational records of reading and writing, developmental benchmarks, and portfolios can be used to inform daily teaching (Allington & Cunningham, 1996; Burns, Griffin, & Snow, 1999; international Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Slegers, 1996).

Teachers, parents and caregivers must understand and support children’s emergent literacy and, in later years, children’s transition to conventional reading and writing.  Teachers, administrators, and specialists need to understand the developmental nature of emergent literacy and early conventional literacy and ensure that the curriculum and instructional materials are appropriate and are following the latest trends.

Parents need to be educated in their child development and they have to support sharing and exploring literacy with their children.  The literacy program is created to support children’s social, emotional, aesthetic, maturational, and cognitive needs. Reading program which is of the best quality is the one that is balanced and includes quality literature, writing opportunities, development of phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge.

In order to provide opportunities for children’s literacy acquisition, schools should work with community groups and libraries, where they will obtain informational programs for parents regarding the development of literacy skills in young children.

Educators have to review research on reading and young children and become familiar with Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. (Joint position statement of the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children).

All teachers should develop an understanding of phonological terms, should work to provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum in reading and writing, in an attainable and challenging manner.

Educators have to develop strategies for preventing reading difficulties, to begin with. Libraries or resource centres have to obtain and constantly update extensive and varied resources.

Learning is a fun process that instils a desire to learn more.  Only a joint forces from all sides concerned can accomplish this.

The today’s availability of resources online is contributing towards this goal.

You can find more about teaching your child to learn and developing the reading skills at:

Bridge to reading

Learn to read




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