A child’s preliteracy period is about learning to read. Unlike when they are learning to talk, they do not come ready to read, and they will need your help in learning about letters, words, and books.
So what exactly are preliteracy skills? What can you do to safeguard his reading-readiness by the time he enters kindergarten?
As a parent, you’ll want to ensure two things:
- Your child is learning to talk.
- Your child is learning emergent reading skills.
Learning to read is a process that has three stages: emergent literacy, early literacy, and conventional literacy.
A child in the emergent phase (pre-literacy) is learning about print and sound. This is when they develop oral language, alphabet knowledge, print awareness, awareness of spoken sounds and how these sounds are blended together to form words, and emergent writing skills.
During the early literacy phase, children learn to decode and regognize words. This phase is all about letter sound relationships and sounding out words to gain meaning.
A child in the conventional literacy stage is reading and writing for meaning.
Strong emergent literacy skills are a very good predictor of reading success. Since no two home environments are the same, children learn emergent literacy skills at different times and at different rates depending on what they are exposed to. This is why it is so important to have a lot of reading material available to give your child the opportunity to learn these skills.
Teaching does not always mean sitting at a table with a pencil and paper! Teaching can be rewarding and fun for both you and your child. Talk about pictures, letters, sounds, words, symbols, signs, and books.
Oral language plays a large part in reading, as well, because it encompasses well-developed receptive and expressive language skills. A child that learns new vocabulary, correct grammar, can recount events, and tell stories will more readily learn to read. Talking to your baby and providing as much opportunity for your child to learn to talk will greatly improve his reading skills.
A child who can name the upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet and identify the corresponding printed symbol has alphabet knowledge. By Kindergarten, children are expected to recognize and name both upper and lowercase letters. Before they enter Kindergarten, try alphabet puzzles and matching games to prepare your child.
A child who has an understanding of the system of letters, words, sentences and books has print knowledge. Print knowledge includes knowing that pictures and words are different and that printed words have meaning. It also encompasses identifying the front and back of the book, turning pages, and that reading occurs from left to right. All children will pay attention to pictures rather than words, but an interest will develop with time and exposure. Comment on letters you see in your neighborhood when driving around, comment on the signs on the highway, let him hear and see you read your grocery list, show him the numbers on the department store receipt to familiarize your child to reading.
Phonological awareness has to do with a child's sensitivity to the spoken sound of the language. A child who can think about the sounds in a word, and identify, make judgments and manipulate spoken sounds is using his phonological awareness skills. Rhyming is a big part of phonological awareness, and this is the phase where a child learns about words in sentences and concentrates on the sound of the word.
Emergent writing is a child's first efforts at creating and using print in a meaningful way. A child who scribbles, draws, copies, and prints letters and invents spelling is in an emergent writing stage. The primary focus in these early years is to encourage your child to become familiar with using crayons, pens, pencils and paper, and to teach him that there is a purpose to writing. Allow your child to dictate letters and stories to you. Encourage him to write notes to grandparents (and encourage grandparents to send him letters and cards in the mail).
Not only will your child's speech-language skills impact his ability to read, his preliteracy skills will bear heavily on his reading success. Still have questions? Contact us to learn more.