Emerging literacy begins at birth and includes all language experiences that contribute to literacy development. Although much research has been done on various literacy programs — all claiming to be the one best approach — the simplest and most natural way to get children excited about reading continues to be reading to them. Across the world, across cultures, and across generations, those precious moments of closeness and shared language become the most important of all for preparing lifelong readers.
For children who have not previously experienced a reading or story environment, you must provide the missing foundation. This section examines ways in which teachers can create the beliefs, “I am a reader. I am a writer.”
Differences in Talking and Reading Learning to walk and talk seem to be hard-wired into the brains of humans. After watching and listening, most babies instinctively being to jabber and then to talk. Generally, walking works the same way. Normally, no instruction is required concerning where to place the tongue to say a word, or how to rotate a foot from the heel toward the toe to walk. On the other hand, learning to read and write must explicitly be taught.
Emerging literacy implies an involvement with activities related to print rather than a set of “readiness” skills to be mastered. From early experiences with print, such as seeing others read, being read to, watching a parent create a grocery list, and seeing names of favorite places, the young child learns many literary concepts. For those children fortunate enough to enjoy rich language and literature experiences before entering school, learning to read usually comes easily. Areas that form emergent literacy include:
· oral language
· phonological awareness
· phonemic awareness
· concepts about print
· alphabet letter names
· letter sound-to-symbol recognition,
· beginning sight vocabulary.
Although individual variations occur in literacy, acquisition develops in predictable patterns by moving from prereading (emerging literacy) to conventional literacy. Children who come to kindergarten or first grade (or even later grades) without adequate background must be immersed (surrounded) with letters, sounds, and experiences with books. For children lacking early literacy experiences, a phonics lesson on any letter must seem like total gibberish. To reach these children, you must create the early literacy environments that will enable them to absorb notions about what reading, and writing are all about.
An examination of practices of loving parents suggests the following ideas for emerging literacy. Favorite books, loved by children and adults alike for their richness, become primary sources of meaning and pleasure in emerging literacy classrooms as well as at home.
An important aspect of early childhood reading includes sitting close to a parent or sitting in a parent’s lap. Teachers have an opportunity to bond reading and writing with the kind of pleasure and motivation found in homes where parents lovingly read to children daily. Forming the foundation for all literacy are concepts called phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.