“The first thing kids should learn about words is that they have meaning.”
That’s what I wrote in a guest post for The Imagination Tree recently. And it’s true! While there is plenty of practice that does — and needs to — go on with pieces and parts of words, rearranging letters, and practicing sounds and sight words, we must remember that with all of that, kids need a strong foundation in using words to receive and send meaning.
We’re really quite fixated on the importance of literacy in education, but if reading isn’t connected to meaning, all we’re teaching kids to do is string a bunch of sounds together. That’s not literacy.
In this old article from a 2005 issue NAEYC’s Young Child magazine, Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos, leading researchers in the field of early literacy, wrote about the importance of infusing meaning into the literacy experiences of early readers.
In reference to the joint position statement created by NAEYC and the International Reading Association outlining developmentally appropriate practice in literacy instruction, the authors wrote:
“The research-based statement stresses that for children to become skilled readers, they need to develop a rich language and conceptual knowledge base, a broad and deep vocabulary, and verbal reasoning abilities to understand messages conveyed through print. At the same time, it recognizes that children also must develop code-related skills” (phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.).
“But to attain a high level of skill, young children need many opportunities to develop these strands interactively, not in isolation. Meaning, not sounds or letters, drives children’s earliest experiences with print. Therefore, the position statement points out that although specific skills like alphabet knowledge are important to literacy development, children must acquire these skills in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences (Neuman, Bredekamp, & Copple 2000).”
How do you create a culture of literacy that is rich in meaning? Here are a few key ideas. [Read more…]