As early childhood education moves front and center in the public policy debate, more attention is being paid to early literacy. Early childhood professionals have long recognized the importance of language and literacy in preparing children to succeed in school. Early literacy plays a key role in enabling the kind of early learning experiences that research shows are linked with academic achievement, reduced grade retention, higher graduation rates and enhanced productivity in adult life. This report synthesizes the body of professional knowledge about early literacy and offers research-based recommendations.
What we know:
- Literacy development starts early in life and is highly correlated with school achievement.
- All of the domains of a child’s development —physical, social-emotional, cognitive, language and literacy—are interrelated and interdependent.
- The more limited a child’s experiences with language and literacy the more likely he or she will have difficulty learning to read.
- Key early literacy predictors of reading and school success include oral language, Alphabetic Code, and print knowledge.
- Well-conceived standards for child outcomes, curriculum content, and teacher preparation help establish clarity of purpose and a shared vision for early literacy education.
- Increased demands for program accountability are often heavily focused on assessments of children’s early literacy development.
- Highly capable teachers are required to implement today’s more challenging early literacy curriculum.
- Teacher knowledge, respect and support for the diversity of children’s families, cultures, and linguistic backgrounds are important in early literacy development.
- All children should have access to early childhood programs with strong literacy components that include clear adaptations for children with special needs.
- Early literacy curricula and teaching practices should be evidence-based, integrated with all domains of learning, and understandable to staff members.
- Early literacy standards should be established that articulate with K-12 programs and reflect consistency and continuity with overall program goals.
- Early literacy assessment should use multiple methods and use the information to improve both teaching and the total preschool program.
- Standards for early childhood professionals should require staff to meet early literacy instructional standards.
- Parent involvement programs should have a strong early literacy component that guides parents and caregivers in providing early literacy experiences at home.
- Support for English Language Learners should be specified and provided in both the home language and English where feasible.
A growing body of evidence shows that early learning experiences are linked with later school achievement, emotional and social well-being, fewer grade retentions, and reduced incidences of juvenile delinquency and that these outcomes are all factors associated with later adult productivity.1 Other research has identified key predictors for reading and school success.
An analysis of the research literature indicates specific skills and abilities of children ages birth through 5 years that predict later reading outcomes.
Key predictive skills and abilities include:
- Oral language
listening comprehension, oral language vocabulary
- Alphabetic Code
alphabet knowledge, phonological/ phonemic awareness (the ability to discriminate sounds in words), invented spelling
- Print Knowledge/Concepts
environmental print, concepts about print
Other less significant indicators include: Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN); visual memory; and visual perceptual abilities.
How young children acquire early literacy and its oral language foundation has gained the attention of educators and policymakers. Research establishes four major principles of early literacy acquisition:
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Courtesy of Readingrockets.org