Development in literacy begins in the early stages of childhood through some activities that may seem unrelated to reading and writing. Early childhood behaviors such as “writing” scribbles on paper and “reading” from pictures and portraits are good examples of emergent literacy, an important part of literacy development in children. The term emergent reading is used for learning to recognize the function of reading in our day to day life within Early Years Education. Children successfully progress from emergent reading to conventional reading, with support of the parents, early childhood educators and their teachers together with exposure to an environment rich in literacy materials.
The fact that children develop important skills for emergent reading during early speech and language development is of vital value. I have learnt that skills that build the foundation for emergent reading and success in later reading develop from as early as the first months after birth through the second year of the child’s life. This happens as the children’s experiences with oral language grow, and from the ages of two and three they begin to produce understandable speech that is in response to books and the written scribbles and doodles they create. Rapid growth in reading literacy is seen in the ages of three through to four and at this time they begin to read their favorite books by themselves with their focus on re-enacting the story from pictures.
Progress is seen as they grow from telling the story in individual pictures to weaving a full story from all, using language akin to the formal reading and written language. Another important aspect I have learnt relates to the effect of the surrounding literacy environment on emergent reading that includes interesting pictures and exposure to bedtime stories especially within the safe confines of home. Rapid growth in emergent reading occurs at the kindergarten level with exposure to literacy-rich reading and writing environment and culture. Of great note is the fact that reading repetitively from books gradually demonstrates to the children the intonation patterns of an adult reader. Emergent readers at this level begin to control early reading tactics such as word by word matching, concepts of print and directionality. The children use pictures to support reading as they mainly rely on their language skills.
The knowledge on emergent literacy is of great value in developing a conducive learning environment and appropriate material for emergent reading and writing. With this knowledge, I would design my teaching practice to include books with picture stories, easy to understand and enjoy comical books with focus on sounds, rhymes and alliteration and emphasis on repetitive words and phrases. My lessons will be structured to include nursery rhymes, singing and rhyming games. Parents and caregivers would be advised to draw the children’s attention to print used in day to day setting such as food containers, supermarket logos and traffic signs. I would encourage them to particularly reread the child’s favorite story books while focusing their attention by pointing out the pictures and words as they read. Another important intervention would be to introduce new words during family holidays and special activities such as during outings to the parks and zoo. Gradually the children learn to merge what they know about listening and speaking to what they know about print and progress on to learn to read and write.
In search for a recent article on literacy instruction, I came one across titled “Emergent literacy: Early reading and writing development” by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The article shared knowledge and tactics on helping the child develop literacy skills and most of these are outlined in the preceding sections of this essay. Of importance throughout the article was to always show the children that reading and writing are an essential part of the day to day life and can at the same time be enjoyable and fun. From the article we also learn factors that will impair progress in emergent reading this include speech and language disorders, physical and/or medical problems in the children. The social environments at the homes also play a big role. For such children slight arrangements would be made to meet their educational needs.
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