What is Early Literacy?

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Children prepare to read long before they enter school - early literacy is everything children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Early literacy is a baby who chews on a book, a toddler who wants his favorite book read over and over, and a preschooler who "reads" the story to you from memory.
Early literacy skills begin to develop in the first 5 years of life. We used to think that children's success at reading depended on getting the "right" first grade teacher. Now we know that your child's likelihood for success in the first grade depends on how much she's learned about reading before entering school. Your child's early experiences with books and language lay the foundation for success in learning to read.
Early literacy is not the "teaching of reading."
You've heard many times that you are your child's first and best teacher. This is true. But it's not your job to formally "teach" reading. Your child will learn how to read in school. The most important thing you can do to foster early literacy is provide an atmosphere that's fun, verbal and stimulating, not school-like. The focus should not be on teaching, but on the fun you're having with your child - offer your child plenty of opportunities to talk and be listened to, to read and be read to, and to sing and be sung to.
No rote memorization, no flashcards, no workbooks and no drills are necessary. Children who are exposed to interactive literacy-rich environments, full of fun opportunities to learn language will develop early literacy skills.
You are the key to your child's success in learning to read. When you read, talk or play with your child, you're stimulating the growth of your child's brain and building the connections that will become the building blocks for reading. Brain development research shows that reading aloud to your child every day increases his brain's capacity for language and literacy skills and is the most important thing you can do to prepare him for learning to read.

Why is early literacy important?

According to a survey of kindergarten teachers conducted in Fall 2006 by the Oregon Department of Education, 19.4% of children in Multnomah County entered kindergarten "not ready to succeed," in large part because they lack the necessary language and pre-reading skills.

Experts now know that:

  • The development of language and literacy skills begins at birth.
  • Children develop much of their capacity for learning in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90 percent of their eventual adult weight.