I’m sharing some favorite posts from the past as I spend some extra time with my family after our new addition.
Imagine yourself as a home builder. You’ve acquired new clients who are excited to be building their dream home. You’re excited too. You love watching your hard work create a beautiful, lasting structure. Your clients bring in a file of all the things they want to see in their new home. paint chips, magazine clippings, and carpet samples come pouring out. You start building right away, paying attention to every last detail they spelled out for you. the home is magnificent. Simply beautiful. There’s only one problem. Your clients never mentioned anything about the foundation, so you never put one in. They wanted a house they could see, not yards of concrete buried by dirt.
The house is beautiful…today. But with the first passing storm, the ground softens and shifts, and your hours of hard work soon crumble before you.
While pouring a foundation may not be a visually exciting as seeing a house go up in its recognizable form, it is critical to get it right. No one would ever risk putting hours of work into building a house if it lacked a foundation to keep it solid, strong, and immovable. And yet, sometimes that’s what happens when we dive right into teaching children benchmark skills, without recognizing the critical importance of the foundational skills that have to come before.
As parents and teachers, we may get caught up in the pressure we feel to teach reading and neglect to teach foundational literacy skills.
Watching a child take words from a page and turn them into a spoken story is magical to watch — like seeing a house come up where there was once nothing — but before you can put the work and effort into decoding, you have to build the foundation with things like language, phonemic awareness, and concepts of print. Some children may develop some of these skills naturally if give the right environment. However, as with any learning objective, if you can recognize what needs to be learned, you can emphasize those formal and informal learning opportunities, and maximize the learning outcome.
As just one example, phonemic awareness has been shown to be the number one predictor of reading success, and the lack of the skill has been linked to reading failure and dyslexia. It begins before a child learns the ABCs and is developed without ever looking at a printed word. Yet it is a skill that can be taught, if we’ll just take the time. (Learn more about phonemic awareness research from the University of Oregon here.)
When I received Fountas and Pinnell’s new book, Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook, I was immediately on board as I read their quote on the back cover:
“The knowledge that forms the foundation for reading and writing is built throughout early childhood through play, language, and literary experiences.”
The foundation! A 400+ page book focused on building a strong reading foundation! I have loved this resource and recommend it highly to any early childhood educator, particularly right now as you’re looking ahead to the coming year. It would be a fantastic text to use for an early literacy course or as a gift for new teacher. (I reviewed this book here.)
You can also read more about building a literacy foundation in my emergent literacy series here.
Share with us. What are some of the ways you focus on building the foundation for early learning with the children you love and teach?
Funny! I wasn’t expecting the content to go in the direction it did. I guess I was heading into a different territory to literacy. I was heading towards emotional intelligence and the wellbeing of our kids (soon to be adults). I guess in the end it doesn’t matter where the post went. It’s the principle behind it. Good foundations should be the beginning of everything we do. Thanks for the prompt and hope all is going well with the little one.
The analogy really could be applied to so many facets of development. Too often we’re in a hurry to get to the things we can see (or test), when it’s the foundation that really makes the difference in the long run!