Early literacy is the development of essential skills that will allow a child to learn to read with understanding when he or she is developmentally ready. Sometimes called reading readiness, it is everything a child needs to know and learns about reading prior to the beginning of formal instruction. Ideally, the acquisition of early literacy skills begins when a child is an infant and continues right up to the point when reading instruction begins. Some of the easiest ways for parents and caregivers to develop these important skills include reading and talking to children while keeping the experience enjoyable for the child.
Children should be developing early literacy skills from birth until they reach school age. An important factor in being ready to learn to read is a high level of interest. Children should be eager and excited to enter the world of reading because they enjoy books. This love of reading can be encouraged by reading aloud to children, and making it a special time. It's also a good idea to read in front of kids, so they can see that adults also enjoy it.
Another component is the development of vocabulary, since children with large vocabularies have an easier time recognizing and reading many words. Vocabulary can be built by narrating what you are doing to children, having conversations with them, and telling them what words mean, even when they are babies. Learning about print, often called print awareness, is also extremely important and can be developed by reading together and encouraging children to handle books. Print awareness refers to the child's knowledge about print, such as the fact that print represents words and meaning, or the manner in which it is read.
Another important factor in developing early literacy is called narrative skill, which is the ability to tell stories. It can be encouraged by asking children to tell about their day, having them describe things, or talk about a book to which they've listened. This helps them comprehend what they are reading once they start learning how to read.
Letter awareness is also very important and refers to skills such as identifying letters and their sounds, as well as understanding that letters make up words. This knowledge can be encouraged by pointing out letters and words while reading together, through handling books, and by utilizing fun activities that involve letters and shapes. Another important component of early literacy is called phonological awareness, and refers to the ability to hear and identify the individual sounds in words. It can be developed by reading rhyming books and amusing poems, as well as playing simple word games.
The skills involved in early literacy are vitally important to ensure that a child is successful in school. Solid reading skills are critical and necessary for learning across the curriculum. A child with an extensive early literacy background will usually begin formal instruction ready and eager to learn. Many of these skills are encouraged by two simple activities: reading to children and talking to them, which can build a firm foundation for literacy.