Decoding the Poster: Overview of Early Litearcy
Early Literacy Begins With You by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting
Here you will find a brief overview of early literacy, why it is important, and what the public library does to support parents and caregivers to help young children newborn to age five enter school ready to learn to read.
This webpage can be used by library staff, child care providers, early childhood educators, social workers, parents, anyone in the community who is interested in helping children enter school ready to learn to read. It is partly based on the second edition of Every Child Ready to Read®, a project of the American Library Association. (www.everychildreadytoread.org)
While all aspects of child development are important to learning to read, we are focusing here on language and literacy.
What is Early Literacy?
Early literacy is what children know about communication, language, verbal and non-verbal, reading and writing before they can actually read and write. It encompasses all of a child’s experiences with conversation, stories, oral and written, books, and print.i
Early literacy is NOT the teaching of reading. It is laying a strong foundation so that when children are taught to read, they are ready.
Why does early literacy matter?
Over one thirdii of our children enter school without the skills ready to learn to read. Children who enter school without the skills ready to learn to read find learning to read harder and start at a disadvantage. There are many things parents, educators, and library staff and others who work with children can do to support our children’s readiness to read.
The Reading Process
Before we look at early literacy it helps to understand what goes into reading, when children become readers in school.
Learning to read includes two major skill areas: decoding and comprehension. iii
- Decoding is being able to recognize the words from the text. Children recognize some words by sight. Other words they sound out to figure out what the words are.
- Comprehension is understanding what the words mean. Children may be able to sound out words but cannot necessarily understand the meaning of the words. They must understand the meaning of individual words as well as the whole idea.
- Both decoding and comprehension are needed for reading.
Getting Ready for Reading—Early Literacy Overview
Researchers have noted early literacy skills that support both these aspects of reading.iv If children come to school with a solid background in these skills, it will be easier for them to learn to read. Researchers choose to divide the aspects of early literacy in different ways, sometimes using different terms. The basic information is the same.
Here we have divided early literacy into components. Let’s look at these briefly.
- Oral language—listening, speaking, communication skills
- Phonological Awareness—the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words
- Print Awareness/Conventions of Print—the knowledge that print has meaning, environmental print, how to handle a book, direction of text, title/author/illustrator.
- Letter Knowledge—knowing that the same letter can look different, that letters have names and represent sounds
- Vocabulary—knowing the meanings of words
- Background Knowledge—prior knowledge, what a child knows when entering school
We will use the image of the tree as we talk through early literacy, the reading process, and your role in developing early literacy in children.
Begin at the roots of the trees, scroll over the words and click on the words for more information. If you prefer not to use pop ups, please use the full early literacy article.
YOU are the sun. YOU make a difference in children’s early literacy development.
As you sing, talk, read, write, and play with young children, you have the opportunity to support their pre-reading skills in little ways that add up to make a difference by the time children enter school.
HOW you sing, talk, read, write, and play with children makes a difference in supporting their early literacy skills. The fruit of your interactions with children is that they will find it easier to learn to read with your support of the early literacy components.
Early Literacy and Later Reading
There are two aspects of reading.
Decoding—recognizing words and sounding them out, and Comprehension—understanding what you read
Researchers have found that phonological awareness, print awareness and letter knowledge most directly support decoding.v A strong vocabulary also helps children be able to recognize words as they try to sound them out.
Vocabulary and background knowledge most directly support comprehension, understanding what they are reading.
From kindergarten through grade 2 reading instruction mostly focuses on decoding, learning to read.
After grade 3, reading instruction mostly focuses on comprehension, reading to learn.
Children need ALL the early literacy components starting from birth to be good readers.
Early Literacy Begins with You
Using the five practices to support the early literacy skills in enjoyable ways is the best way to help children enter school ready to learn to read.
Association for Library Service to Children and Public Library Association. Every Child Ready to Read @ your library, 2nd edition. Chicago: American Library Association, 2011.
Bardige, Betty and Marilyn Segal. Building Literacy with Love: A Guide for Teachers and Caregivers of Children from Birth Through Age 5. Washington, DC: Zero to Three Press, 2005.
Bardige, Betty. Talk to Me, Baby: How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes, 2009.
Ghoting, Saroj and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library. Chicago: American Library Association, 2006.
Ghoting, Saroj and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Storytimes for Everyone! Developing Young Children's Language and Literacy. Chicago: American Library Association, 2013.
Morrow, Lesley et al. Using Children’s Literature in Preschool to Develop Comprehension: Understanding and Enjoying Books. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2009.
Neuman, Susan & Kathleen Roskos. Nurturing Knowledge: Building a Foundation for School Success by Linking Early Literacy to Math, Science, Art, and Social Studies. NY: Scholastic, 2007.
Roskos, Kathleen et al. Oral Language and Early Literacy in Preschool: Talking, Reading, and Writing. 2nd edition. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2009.
Schickedanz, Judith and Renee Casbergue. Writing in Preschool: Learning to Orchestrate Meaning and Marks. 2nd ed. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2009.
Strickland, Dorothy and Judith Schickedanz. Learning About Print in Preschool: Working with Letters, Words and Beginning Links with Phonemic Awareness. 2nd ed. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2009.
i 2011 Policy Brief from Zero to Three. A Window to the World: Early Language and literacy Development. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/series/the-early-experiences-matter-policy-toolkit#positive-early-learning-experiences]
ii Carnegie Foundation of New York. Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children. Waldorf, MD: Carnegie Corp of NY, 1994
iii Every Child Ready to Read @ your library Manual Section II page 8
iv Neuman p.40
v Learning to Talk and Listen: An Oral Language Resource for Early Childhood Caregivers (Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy, 2009), 14. http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/LearningtoTalkandListen.pdf
vi Every Child Ready to Read @ your library Manual Section I page 6