Many developmentally appropriate preschool teachers have been asked, “Why don’t you teach reading?” The question is innocent. But teachers often come away frustrated, as most of what they do is focused on building successful readers. Often, outside observers are looking for reading worksheets and primers and long stretches of direct phonics instruction. The trick is, in these early years, so much is being done to build successful readers, but it is in the form of emergent or early literacy skills, which are much less visible to the untrained eye.
Seeing is Believing
Part of why these early literacy skills are difficult to spot in a developmentally appropriate classroom is the fact that they are often integrated into a larger culture of literacy. They come up in songs and games and spontaneous conversations. They are reinforced as children play restaurant and bake cookies and share silly stories. There is a lot of overlap with these skills, and they can be taught both in planned and unforseen contexts.
Once you recognize the elements of early literacy, you will see opportunities to teach them all around you! As I’ve stated before, when you recognize your learning objectives, you can emphasize them in meaningful and even serendipitous contexts, thereby maximizing the learning outcomes.
A Solid Foundation
The elements of emergent literacy that I will be focusing on for the next few posts are:
Oral Language Skills, and
Knowledge of these concepts begins developing from birth and encompasses critical skills a child must master before ever approaching any of the more conventional literacy skills like decoding and spelling. Trying to jump straight to the conventional skills without a strong base of early skills would be like trying to build the walls of a house without a strong foundation to attach them to. In truth, many children who struggle with conventional literacy skills in the primary grades need remedial help in building these foundational understandings taught and acquired as early literacy skills.
As logic would suggest, early literacy skills predict primary grade literacy skills which then predict later school success. It’s one long chain of dominoes. Getting a solid start will help to ensure those dominoes all fall the right way. So for the next several posts, I hope to share some insights on each of these elements of early literacy and some fun and effective ways to foster these skills in the children you love and teach!
Chime in ! What are some of your biggest concerns about supporting early literacy?
Photo by Antoni Ruggiero.