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Learning Center Experience
By Ludmila Battista, Faculty, Kaplan University College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Nico searches anxiously for his well-worn copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, pulling it
off the stuffed bookshelf and settling down on the carpet, snuggling with his “Beanie
Boo” as he has hundreds of times before. His mother, Natasha, smiles as Nico
begins to “read.” If you give a mouse a
cookie, he’s gonna want some milk…and when you give him the milk, he’s gonna
want a straw… She’s seen this scenario a dozen times before and is
impressed with how large Nico’s vocabulary has grown and how many words he’s
picked up seemingly effortlessly at such a young age. Even though she knows
he’s often repeating the story from memory, she has a suspicion that Nico
really does already recognize some of the printed words in the books he’s heard
a hundred times before. Natasha doesn’t consider herself to be an avid reader,
so it always amazes her to see how quickly Nico has grown to love his books; she
cherishes their “snuggle time” together and looks forward to reading with him.
around the world, mothers (and fathers!) of all cultures and backgrounds can
relate to this unfolding scene. Children who are exposed to early literacy
activities, including rich language, storybook reading, and exploration in
writing, often have a head start and these “emergent literacy” events can have
a profound impact on later development.
literacy experiences include children discovering and exploring in print-rich
environments; participating in their own versions of early reading and writing;
and having meaningful social interactions with adults and other children,
building language skills, storybook reading
opportunities, and play activities that promote literacy skills. Parents and
professionals alike are equipped to provide children with valuable experiences
and materials that can enhance emergent literacy. But what about the place of
research-proven literacy skills? Do we need to start teaching skills like phonics
and rules of reading as children are crawling around exploring the world around
them? Or do we leave such highly technical lessons to the professionals? Or,
might there be a compromise somewhere in between?
literacy is defined as an approach to literacy development where children
“learn by doing.” It is believed that by engaging in meaningful interactions
utilizing language, print, and writing opportunities children will “pick up” on
these important skills simply through their own engagement from a very early
age. But not every child learns the complex skills and nuances necessary for
effective speaking, reading, and writing simply through observations and
interactions. Enter the more directed approach in explicitly teaching research—proven
skills (such as the sound structure of language, alphabet knowledge, and
specific lessons on oral language skills). Often identified as “The Reading
Wars” or the “Whole Language vs. Phonics” debate, it often pits literacy
experts against each other and the average layperson wondering the best
approach to take.
parents and early childhood
alike realize intuitively that engaging children in literacy activities (such
as singing nursery rhymes and alphabet songs, “playing school,” or storybook
reading) is going to have a positive impact on children, but even the casual
remarks about some of the important literacy skills (such as introducing new
vocabulary words or pointing out environmental print) can greatly impact
children’s literacy development. You don’t have to be a PhD in language or
literacy to be able to draw children’s attention to some of their everyday
experiences with literacy skills.
are children’s first teachers, and as such they have a tremendous opportunity
and responsibility to provide enriching and engaging literacy experiences that
don’t have to be overly technical or scientific. Providing children with a
variety of different reading materials (storybooks, online games or aps,
comics, magazines, flashcards, etc.) and encouraging and supporting children’s
with these materials are effective.
and influential adults as well as siblings and other children are powerful role
models as well. Building positive attitudes towards literacy behaviors (such as
reading, writing, and engaging in conversations) goes a long way in motivating
children to also engage in these behaviors and provides opportunities to
practice literacy skills. Remember, speaking, reading, and writing are all
literacy skills and many fun activities that precede the development of these
skills (such as learning how to rhyme, practicing holding a pencil or other
writing material, or trying new words in oral conversations) are important,
balanced approach to literacy means doing all the things parents and caregivers
might do intuitively, like reading together, drawing and labeling pictures,
pointing out signs or other words during outings, and providing reading and
writing materials for children to explore in the context of play. It also
includes making a point to use “teachable moments” in everyday experiences to
point out some of the important skills associated with literacy—introducing new
vocabulary, learning the alphabet and the associated sounds that letters make,
teaching concepts about print, and pointing out the parts of words that make
the whole and breaking down whole words into smaller parts. A balanced approach
means doing what comes naturally but also paying attention to the “skill work”
and taking advantage of opportunities to practice these skills in authentic
engagements in a child’s everyday world.
no question that as a literate society, the more readily children learn to
speak, read, and write, the better off they are. But statistics also reveal
that problems with literacy can also be predictive of later, more serious
issues. Taking the time provide even the youngest children with opportunities
to explore and engage in literacy opportunities can have a powerful impact on
Christie, J., Enz, B.J. & Vukelich, C. (2011) Teaching
Language and Literacy: Preschool Through the Elementary Grades. Boston, MA: Pearson.
National Early Literacy Panel. National Institute for
Literacy, (2008). Developing early literacy. Retrieved from website: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/documents/NELPReport09.pdf
Ramsberg, D. (n.d.). Understanding literacy development
in young children. Retrieved fromhttp://library.adoption.com/articles/understanding-literacy-development-in-young-children.html
S. (2004, July 12). What does a "balanced approach" to reading
instruction mean?. Retrieved from http://www.educationnews.org/articles/what-does-a-balanced-approach-to-reading-instruction-mean-.html
Source: Literacy Statistics at http://www.bookspring.org/literacy-statistics/
Activities at Home at http://www.education.com/reference/article/home-literacy-activities/
Information and Communication System (LINCS) at http://lincs.ed.gov/
Kids Literacy Games at http://pbskids.org/games/literacy.html
Literacy Activities at http://www.the-preschool-professor.com/preschool-literacy-activities.html
is a balanced approach to reading? (video) at http://www.ehow.com/video_4790931_balanced-approach-reading_.html
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