Philosophy of Literacy Education. Becoming literate is a complex step by step process that begins at birth. The National

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1 Philosophy of Literacy Education Becoming literate is a complex step by step process that begins at birth. The National Association for Young Children explains, Even in the first few months of life, children begin to experiment with language. Young babies make sounds that imitate the tones and rhythms of adult talk; they read gestures and facial expressions, and they begin to associate sound sequences frequently heard - words with their referents (p.1). The English language is not merely a written language, but also a spoken language and children s exposure to language begins at birth. Infants and toddlers need to be spoken to regularly using whole language and complete sentences. Communicating with young children through spoken language will allow them to increase the amount of words that they can understand and that is available for their future use in speaking, reading, and writing. Infants and Toddlers learn to produce the sounds required for their spoken language, increase their vocabulary, and learn the rules of conversation through interaction with the adults around them. The skills of reading develop slowly and in a predictive pattern. The International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (1998) share the belief that reading and writing acquisition is best conceptualized as a developmental continuum. This continuum begins with speaking and moves slowly through learning about print concepts, letter recognition, phonemic awareness, recognizing phoneme-grapheme relationships, blending, word recognition, word decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Young children are continuously making progress on this continuum through a variety of sources. One of the most beneficial activities for young children to participate in is being read to. The IRA and NAEYC (1998) state, The single most important activity for building these understandings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children (p. 32). Children need to be

2 read to from an early age so that the skills and concept knowledge required when formal education begins are present. Parents need to be cultivated to be their child s first teacher. The general public needs to realize that learning to read and becoming literate is a process that begins long before a child enters a school building. Grover Whitehurst and Christopher Lonigan (1998) state, The term emergent literacy is used to denote the idea that the acquisition of literacy is best conceptualized as a developmental continuum, with its origins early in the life of a child, rather than an all-or-none phenomenon that begins when children start school (p. 848). The key to gifting every child with the ability to be successful at reading and writing is to expose them at a very early age to an environment that is filled with language, both spoken and written. In an early childhood education setting, such as Head Start, Prekindergarten, or day care, young children need to be exposed to literacy and language in a variety of ways. In this environment, children need to develop the concepts that print has meaning, reading moves from left to right, and books should be read from front to back and one page at a time. They also need to begin to recognize and label letters, become aware and skilled at separating and blending phonemes, relating letters to the corresponding sound, and recognizing environmental print, such as their name and signs and symbols. The majority of this education needs to be informal. Young children learn best through play. A dramatic play area that includes books, paper, chalkboards, and other reading and writing materials should be offered where students can explore literacy and storytelling through the use of their imagination. Kathleen Roskos (1988) shares that, Children who actively and frequently participate in pretend play episodes as a kind of story making may have a leg up on literacy learning as they enter the school doors (p. 563). Teachers need to read aloud to students frequently while questioning and encouraging student comprehension and discussion and also need to create an environment that is full of print and

3 symbols. Students should participate in a multitude of games that involve rhyming, blending, segmenting, and separating sounds and words. Echo and choral reading of nursery rhymes is an activity that will improve students phonemic awareness and reading readiness. Very little formal reading education belongs in a child s world prior to their entrance into a formal school environment. Children need all of the activities that have been listed to prepare them for when their formal education begins. Unfortunately, some children do not receive the opportunity to participate in these informal activities that prepare them for formal literacy instruction. Kindergarten teachers need to be prepared for a variety of literacy skill sets and knowledge to come through their classroom door each school year. One of the most important tasks of the teachers that begin children s formal literacy education is to make it a positive experience in an environment where children feel safe to take risks and be courageous in learning to read. Dorothy Hall and Elaine Williams (2000) believe that, If the introduction is a pleasant one, then the child will develop an attitude toward school and learning which can carry her through the occasionally difficult situations that everyone is bound to meet in the climb up the educational ladder (p. 6). Learning to read is a complex difficult process that takes years and in all honesty is never finished. I still constantly learn new words and techniques to improve my reading and writing. Teachers need to help students develop a love of reading and writing so that when difficulties arise, because they often will, children will want to persevere because they understand what reading and writing can offer to them in the present and in their future. Due to the variety of reading knowledge and skill sets found within a classroom, when formal literacy education begins, it needs to include a balanced, multilevel approach. Inside of the school, literacy instruction needs to include direct, multilevel instruction in phonics, reading

4 whole words, fluency, and comprehension. Along with reading instruction, students need direct instruction in learning to write. Reading and writing are interrelated. Adding a word to a student s vocabulary means that not only can they read and comprehend that word, but that they can now use that word to make their written creation even more detailed and flowing. Learning to write a word means that when a child comes in contact with that word in text, he or she will be able to fluently read and comprehend it. A student who is exposed to a new text structure, such as poetry, or a new genre through reading opens up the student s mind to now be able to write in that structure or genre. Once the foundation of reading fluently with high levels of comprehension and basic writing skills has developed, children will continue to improve their literacy skills throughout the rest of their life and into adulthood.

5 References Hall, D. & Williams, E. (2002). The Teacher s Guide to Building Blocks. Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc. International Reading Association and National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1998). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children. Young Children, 53(4), pp National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2005). Learning to read and write: what research reveals. Reading Rockets. Retrieved from Roskos, K. (1988). Literacy at work in play. The Reading Teacher, 41(6), Whitehurst, G. & Lonigan, C. (1998). Child development and emergent literacy. Child Development, 69(3), pp

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