Early literacy is the knowledge that children have about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy is incredibly important because the more that a child interacts with forms of literacy, the more prepared he or she is for when it comes time to learn how to read.
Chapters 5 and 6 in Literacy Beginnings : A Prekindergarten Handbook by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell, thoroughly discuss all the ways in which literacy is incorporated into a preschool classroom for three- and four-year-olds who haven’t yet begun to read. Teachers of preschool students strive to make reading and writing essential daily activities in their classrooms; these activities range from viewing a picture schedule to remind students of their morning routine to reading and talking about a book. During reading time, the teacher engages his or her students with a book through an interactive read-aloud or shared reading. For preschoolers, it is important to choose books with very few words so that the students “…can easily identify from the pictures…” and can understand and process what is being read, while keeping their attention (60). It is also important for preschool children to read stories multiple times, especially those that have “…familiar themes and topics” (60). During an interactive read-aloud experience, students have the opportunity to talk about books with the teacher and their peers in order to better understand what they’re reading. Shared reading allows students to read aloud as a whole class along with the teacher from an enlarged text, and “…gives [them] the opportunity to learn early reading behaviors such as moving across the page from left to right and matching voice to print” (60). During writing time, students also participate in shared writing and interactive writing experiences. Shared writing consists of the teacher composing and writing on a large piece of chart paper while the children “…participate in every aspect of the writing process” and with preschoolers, shared writing can be as simple as drawing and labeling a picture (61). Interactive writing allows children to “share the pen” with the teacher during the writing process and is very similar to shared writing; when students “share the pen” the help add to what the teacher wrote by adding a letter or punctuation mark to the already written piece (61-2). Other opportunities for student interaction with reading and writing throughout the school day can consist of center time, where students manipulate letters and engage in independent writing and drawing, as well as work with phonemic awareness through games and songs. Preschoolers are constantly exposed to reading and writing throughout their days, which readies them to move from early literacy practices into reading and writing on their own.
In class, we discussed how it is important for a child’s caregiver to interact and engage in early literacy practices on a daily basis. This can include talking to a child and naming objects and colors, as well as asking the child questions and teaching him or her how to respond verbally or nonverbally. For example, a caregiver could say, “This is a book. Can you touch the book?” The caregiver identifies and labels an object so that the child knows what the item is, and then the caregiver asks the child to touch the object so that the baby connects what is being said to what is being seen. These types of interaction with young children are critical and help to increase a child’s knowledge of language prior to entering a classroom. However, not all children benefit from these types of interactions and exchanges of language and therefore, some children’s literacy mirrors school literacy and other’s do not. Therefore, when a child enters a classroom, the teacher must take their sociocultural backgrounds into consideration. There are many ways a teacher can gain knowledge of a child’s life outside of school. For example, a teacher can write a letter home to parents at the beginning of the school year that introduces him or herself to the family and asks for the family to respond back to the letter, sharing information about their family and child who is in the class. Teachers must also capitalize on their students’ differences and scheme and use this to help children channel their reading and writing. For example, in Stephanie Jones’ Girls, Social Class, and Literacy : What Teachers Can Do to Make a Difference, the students in chapter 4 knew many people who were in jail, and wanted to talk about their feelings and experiences pertaining to these experiences. According to Jones, “Teachers and researchers have choices to make when we hear these stories [from children]: we can ignore them, judge them from one perspective, or we can hear them and sanction them” (43). A teacher’s knowledge of the sociocultural background of the children that he or she teaches will make planning lessons and scaffolding instruction much easier and more effective, all while creating opportunities for children to discuss their feelings and use their experiences in reading and writing venues.
In class we also discussed a variety of activities, such as “How Do You Use It?” and “What Did You Do Today?”, that allow for language interaction and assessment to take place with children. Other forms of early literacy activities that I discovered on my own were very helpful and expanded my knowledge and experience with the topic of early literacy. One of the activities (which can be found in the attached document created by University of Missouri) called “Felt Family” allows children to discuss their families and houses while playing and creating their family and home out of felt pieces. This activity works with spoken and expressive language and allows “children [to] use language to communicate ideas, feelings, questions or to solve problems.” This activity is also a great way for the teacher to get to know the child and his or her family through the child’s eyes. Another activity, which can also be found in the aforementioned document, works to conquer a child’s listening and receptive language. The activity, called “Magic Word,” requires that children listen to specific words or phrases during transition times. Not only does this activity allow the student to move on to the next necessary daily routine once the word is heard, but it also strengthens students’ abilities to listen to directions and commands. During my search for early language resources, I also found the video (see link below), which showed a parent talking to her child while working on a puzzle. I noticed in the video that the mother was identifying the numbers and animals on the puzzle and the child was repeating what her mother said. Although the child wasn’t saying the words correctly, she was repeating the words and phrases that were being said, which is a wonderful form of early literacy.