In 2004, the Public Library Association and the Association for the Library Service to Children teamed up to create a structure for helping parents to understand and support their young child’s developing literacy. The first version of Every Child Ready to Read was a parent education initiative based on a report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development entitled Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. ?This program was designed to be delivered directly to parents in a classroom-style setting, with a librarian “presenter” explaining the 6 early literacy skills: Vocabulary, Phonological Awareness, Print awareness, Print Motivation, Letter Knowledge and Narrative Skills. Each of these were defined and explained, and parents were given tips and techniques for supporting the development of these skills in young children.
What the facilitators found, however, was that parents wanted to bring their children with them to these literacy-based library programs, so the second installment of Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR2) was designed as a storytime, with parent education tips built in. Another change that was instituted was the inclusion of 5 early learning practices: reading, singing, playing, talking and writing. This change was designed to make the session less jargony and more accessible to parents (some feedback indicated that use of terms like “phonological awareness” made some parents run screaming for the hills). In my programs, however, I still refer to the 6 early literacy skills, and parents in my storytimes will actively seek more information beyond the bite-sized tidbits that are presented during the course of the program. They come up to me afterwards and ask me to expand upon concepts, offer anecdotes of their child’s literacy development, ask for further reading or simply ask for clarification of “what that term was” so they can go look it up themselves later.
Many parents are hungry for information about how to support their children’s developing brains, and ECRR2 provides a great framework by which to offer them useful information that they can use to inform their reading practices with their young children. That said, you don’t NEED to know the names of the early literacy skills to foster a love of reading and learning in your child, but many parents like to know the reasons behind recommended practices. My job as a children’s librarian is to help parents support their child’s developing literacy, so in that vein, I am going to do a series of blog posts based on the 6 early literacy skills and the 5 early learning practices, with examples, images and techniques for sharing books with children.
Here are the 6 Early Literacy skills and their definitions. As the posts come out I will link to them here:
Vocabulary, knowing the names of things, is an extremely important skill for children to have when they are learning to read. Most children enter school knowing between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading a variety of books with him, both fiction and nonfiction, and by naming all the objects in your child’s world.
Print Motivation is a child’s interest in and enjoyment of books. A child with print motivation enjoys being read to, plays with books, pretends to write, asks to be read to and likes trips to the library. Encourage print motivation in your child by making shared book reading a special time, keeping books accessible, and letting your child see that you enjoy reading. Explain how you use reading and writing in everyday life.
Print Awareness includes learning that writing in English follows basic rules such as flowing from top-to-bottom and left-to-right, and that the print on the page is what is being read by someone who knows how to read. An example of print awareness is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book. Your child’s print awareness can be encouraged by pointing out and reading words everywhere you see them – on signs, labels, at the grocery store and post office.
Narrative Skills, being able to understand and tell stories, and describe things, are important for children being able to understand what they are learning to read. An example of a narrative skill is a child’s ability to tell what happens at a birthday party or on a trip to the zoo. Help your child strengthen her narrative skills by asking her to tell you about the book, instead of just listening to you read the story. Encourage your child to tell you about things he has done that have a regular sequence to them.
Letter Knowledge includes learning that letters have names and are different from each other, and that specific sounds go with specific letters. An example of letter knowledge is a child’s ability to tell the name of the letter B and what sound it makes. Letter knowledge can be developed by using a variety of fun reading or writing activities, like pointing out and naming letters in alphabet books, picture books, or on signs and labels. For babies, talk about the shape of things, and for preschoolers, try drawing letters and pictures in the sand.
Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes, to say words with sounds or chunks left out and the ability to put two word chunks together to make a word. Most children who have difficulty in reading have trouble in phonological awareness.
Strengthen phonological awareness by playing fun word games with your child:
- Make up silly words by changing the first sound in a word: milk, nilk, pilk, rilk, filk.
- Say words with a pause between the syllables (“rab”and “it”) and have your child guess what word you are saying.
- Read stories of poems with rhymes or different sounds to your child.
Here are the 5 early learning practices:
Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and others talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge.
Songs are a wondeful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words.
Shared reading is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. Reading together increases vocabulary and general knowledge. It helps children learn how print looks and how books work. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.
Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information. Children can learn pre-reading skills through writing activities.
Play helps children think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.