Thursday, April 18, 2013

Developing Reading Skills in Young Children

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
— Emilie Buchwald

Did you know that some researchers feel that there is a genetic basis for reading? In addition, the foundation for oral language skill development is laid during the infant and preschool years. Children should be able to accurately perceive and produce speech sounds as this is the basis for understanding the relationship between sounds and letters. Understanding oral language is directly related to written language comprehension and writing.
Emergent literacy skills and particularly phonological awareness skills form a bridge between the child's developing oral language and the acquisition of written language competence. Here's some information on emergent/early literacy skills:

  • Phonological awareness-- awareness of the sounds of language. This is perhaps the best predictor of reading ability. Can children rhyme; determine the number of syllables in a word, etc.
  • Letter identification--Children recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet
  • Concepts about print-- Developed by New Zealand educator Marie Clay, concepts about print (CAP) refers to what emergent readers need to understand about how printed language works and how it represents language. Successful beginning readers develop concepts about print at an early age, building on emergent literacy that starts before formal schooling. (This is why talking to young children--oral language development is so important!)
    • Print carries a message. Even when a child "play reads" text using pictures and memory, the child demonstrates an understanding of this concept, even if she cannot read the words, or reads them backwards or front to back.
    • Books are organized, with a cover, title, and author, and reading in English flows in a particular and consistent direction, left to right and top to bottom. When young students successfully point to or otherwise track the print as someone reads aloud, they demonstrate their understanding of orientation and directionality.
    • Printed language consists of letters, words, and sentences. The emergent reader gradually learns to distinguish between these forms, learns the concepts of "beginning" and "end," and understands punctuation that marks text (e.g., period, comma, and question mark).
    • Recognition of matching or upper- and lower-case letters, as well as some common spelling sequences, are slightly more complex concepts of print mastered by more experienced beginning readers.
What are you doing to develop early literacy skills for the children in your care? How do you encourage parents in their role as their child's first teacher? Let's talk!

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