Early Literacy

Background on Primary Book Club
Early literacy is a complicated topic. We will attempt to explain some basic elements of it here, but the research overall is vast and continuously expanding. This is not an effort to synthesize all available information about early literacy, but rather to provide an overview and framework.

Before we begin, here’s our mission at Primary Book Club: we want to help parents of pre-“school-aged” children (0-5 years) develop a learning environment and culture around literacy. That’s our primary goal. Significant resources are devoted to achieving literacy objectives in our schools. Limited resources are available to help parents lay the foundation before their children enter the formal school system. This is where we want to help.

What is early literacy?
Contrary to what some may believe, “early literacy” doesn’t refer to teaching a child how to read. It refers to establishing a foundation for learning to read.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines literacy as all the activities involved in speaking, listening, reading, writing and appreciating both spoken and written language.

Early literacy skills refer to something related, but ultimately different: they’re skills that develop in the years before a child learns to read (alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, letter writing, print knowledge, and oral language, among others).

You can find a great overview of these skills here.

In sum, think of it like this: a good deal of people end up learning how to fundamentally read – but the context of gaining that knowledge from a proper foundation is invaluable.

You can learn more about the ideas behind early literacy here and here.

Why is it important?
Babies are born with roughly 100 billion neurons in their brain, but the neurons aren’t connected. When parents and caregivers read, talk, sing, write and play with newborns and young children, they help them explore their world. That increases neural activity, which leads to neural connectivity- an essential component of a child’s core brain development.  These early experiences and interactions “wire” a child’s brain for future development and learning.

A number of major studies have found that the successful development of early literacy skills correlates to both future academic success and a child’s attitude towards learning.  In fact, the National Commission on Reading concluded in 1985 that “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.

Developmental Milestones
Every single child is different. Developmental milestones around talking and reading, just like crawling and walking, will occur at different points in each child’s life. The timelines may even be vastly different for two siblings. That’s OK! It’s important to remember that there’s no set calendar, and every child will benefit from the love and attention a parent or caregiver shows through time spent reading, singing, talking, or playing with them.  In fact, the love and care parents and caregivers show children from birth are essential to core brain development and greatly influencing a child’s emotional and social development.

If you are concerned about your child’s progress in any developmental area, it’s always best to discuss your concerns with their pediatrician.

It’s Never Too Late
Learning occurs throughout our lifetimes. The first five years are an important period for the development of language and literacy skills, but it is never too late to learn anything. If you are worried that you haven’t been reading or talking to your child enough, do not worry! As long as your child has received love and attention, they are off to a great start. Every day is a opportunity to teach your child (and yourself!) something new.

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