Contrary to popular belief, early literacy, or emergent literacy, is not merely teaching reading and writing. The focus is rather to train your child so that they are equipped with a solid set of pre-literacy skills to draw upon when they are ready to read. It is particularly important to build early literacy during the childhood years, as this will help to maximise their potential in later years. During the ages of zero to three, a critical window of opportunity arises, as a child’s brain is two-and-a-half times more active than an adult’s. The brain is operating at an extremely rapid pace, rendering this period crucial for learning. Recent research demonstrates this, highlighting that early literacy skills predict literacy in later life even after controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ.
So, what does this look like in practice?
There are five core early literacy practices you can start doing with your child today: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.
Developing early literacy practices can start from anything as basic as simply talking to your children or involving them in environments where they may be constantly surrounded by conversation. Many of us parents have witnessed moments, either to our delight or dismay, where children have suddenly blurted out a word for the first time or repeated a word over and over that they have learnt. This is no surprise, given children naturally observe, remember, and mimic words that they hear in different contexts.
Likewise, early literacy practices can also involve singing to children, which is why many preschools and kindergartens incorporate nursery rhymes, breaking down every sound, letter, and syllable to help children recognise rhythm and articulation.
In terms of early reading, the best way to develop this is through shared reading. Shared reading is also known as interactive reading, as children share the experience of reading with the support of a teacher. Often, the language used in books is richer than the language used in normal conversation. Therefore, the benefit of shared reading is that the teacher may guide the child through techniques such as alliteration, rhyming and onomatopoeia. They may read with expression and emphasis, at times dramatically even, so that children develop early phonological awareness of linguistic elements.
As both reading and writing are vital ways to communicate, it is important to encourage your child to mark-make, scribble and draw pictures. Writing is dependent on fine and gross motor skills, which these activities help to facilitate. Eventually, when your child is comfortable with drawing pictures and symbols, you can gradually add new words and point out the sound of these with them.
Finally, play is an effective method for developing all of the above, as play enables children to explore ideas and make sense of the world around them. Play provides the platform for which children can learn to express themselves. In play, children will use objects to symbolically represent other things. This lays concrete foundations for the later use of abstract symbols such as letters, helping to enhance literacy skills in the long term. If you would like to read more about the benefits of play, you can head to our other blog titled ‘The Power of Play’.
There are factors to support the effectiveness of early literacy, including the use of high-quality teaching instruction, close teacher and child relationships as well as consistent exposure to safe learning environments. At Mulberry House, we promote early literacy development through our holistic, bilingual immersion environment. Our teachers are knowledgeable and certified, and are able to passionately guide your children through early literacy practices. If you would like to learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us.