Early Learning Success Manual, pages 47-50

Very young children are amazed with all the new experiences they are having in their world!  Everything they can explore through their five senses – see, hear, taste, feel and smell, are new building blocks to help them explore and understand the environment. They can spend an enormous amount of time doing an activity over and over and continue to be amazed by it. 

Eventually, as infants develop into toddlers and then preschoolers, this sensory learning is enhanced by the development of language and literacy.  Infants begin to vocalize their needs and wants, as well as exclaim amazement of their new learning.  Toddlers begin to scribble, ‘read’ books and speak in 2-3 word sentences.  By preschool age, children are writing their names, listening to stories, following multi-step directions and developing an ever-increasing vocabulary.  As children enter school, they are ready to read, able to hold conversations, and communicate their many ideas and needs.  Language development is important for social and cognitive success.

Common components within this area of development used by the Early Learning Success curriculum include: 

  • Reading – understands the concepts of print materials including comprehension, print/book orientation, vocabulary development and phonetics, as well as enjoyment of the having books read to them or reading themselves 
  • Writing –demonstrates the mechanics of writing including fine motor skill development, and understands that writing is a way of communication including vocabulary and idea development
  • Speaking – (expressive language)the ability to verbally express ideas, wants and thoughts, and the development and use of  vocabulary to communicate with others; for some this includes being able to speak English as well as their home language
  • Listening – (receptive language)the ability to understand verbal and non-verbal cues, follow verbal directions, and increased vocabulary development for comprehending stories and conversation  Early learning standards are written to further describe the knowledge and skill expected for each component.

Each State has early learning standards which are written to further describe the knowledge and skill expected for each component. These specific standards should be used to develop child-specific goals.

Through years of research on how and why children become early or late readers, specific characteristics have been identified that are present in the homes of early readers such as the number of books in the home, if children are being read to, exposure to written language, and if children see adults in their lives reading for information, work or pleasure.

Emergent Literacy is a gradual learning process with babies and children over a period of time.  Everyone is born with it but an infant needs the right conditions to develop and emergeLiteracy refers to the interrelatedness of all language skills.

We know this about Emergent Literacy:                                                       

  • Learning to read and write begins in infancy. Babies and young children have very early contact with language – written and oral. Young babies hear language through adults talking and singing to them. By age two or three many children can identify signs, labels, and logos in homes and communities through visiting places with their families. Young children love to scribble almost as soon as they can grasp a pencil or pen!
  • Reading and writing develop at the same time and are inter-related. Children do not first learn to read and then learn to write; the skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing, and viewing are intertwined and are all developing at the same time.  Children hear the spoken word when adults read out loud to them or have conversations with them.  
  • Literacy develops from real life situations where reading and writing are used to get things done. Young children are exposed to early literacy through seeing adults use skills to get things done such as writing and using a grocery list or reading a map.  They see adults reading and writing, and they gradually come to understand that the written word has meaning.
  • Children learn literacy through active engagement. Children learn literacy through reading and rereading a favorite story book. When they reread the book it is not a memorization of text but of the child retelling the story from memory and what the story means to them.  They also use the pictures to provide information about the story. When they ‘write’ a story, their writing may look like squiggles to you but to them it is real and has meaning.
  • Reading to a child plays a special role in the development of literacy. Reading to a child on a daily basis is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our children and it is never too early to start! By listening to the printed word, children can develop a feel for the patterns, rhythm and flow of written language. They are also beginning to form concepts of books, print and reading.  Children are exposed to a general sense of what reading is all about and what it feels like; they develop a positive attitude towards reading, which is a powerful motivation when the child enters school.  The close personal contact between reader and child is also important in nurturing a positive attitude towards reading.
  • Learning to read and write is a developmental process. Children pass through the stages in a variety of ways and at different ages.  Child development theorists such as Piaget and Vygotsky were instrumental in understanding the developmental stages and process that children experience in learning at all age levels.  Although children may pass through these stages at different times, the stages follow a similar pattern.

In Practice

Block & Truck Play                                                             

  • Use words to name the items children are playing with
  • Use descriptive phrases such as tall tower, hard block and red truck
  • Ask questions about what the child is building such as who is going to live there, and where the truck is going
  • Use directional words and phrases such as on top of, beside, next to, and underneath
  • Describe your play such as the truck is carrying a load of blocks to build a bridge
  • Include books and written materials in the block area; point out words and relate them to the pictures
  • Sing a truck or building song together

Dramatic Play – for example a Grocery Store

  • Find letters and words on food item boxes and cans
  • Look in the cupboard to see what needs to be bought at the grocery store
  • Make a grocery list, look in a grocery ad to make the list
  • Call the store to ask when they are open and closed
  • Talk about what’s for dinner tonight
  • Use the items in the dramatic play center to make dinner
  • Ask open-ended questions about children’s pretend life

Library Corner

  • Cuddle up and read books together
  • Look at the pictures and talk about what is happening in the picture
  • Ask questions about what they see in the book
  • Point to letters or words as you read.  Make sure to go from top to bottom, left to right 
  • Talk about similar experiences they have had that are in the book/story
  • Sing a song about the story

Art/Sensory Activities

  • Roll, squeeze cut and make letters and shapes with play-dough 
  • Talk about what you are making and how the play-dough feels
  • Find objects hidden in the sensory table under the rice or sand
  • Cut out pictures or use stickers to make a book
  • Draw a picture and ask open-ended questions about the child’s drawing

The most important thing you can do with your child is talk to them, listen to them, sing with them, write & draw with them, and read, read, read with them!