When kindergarten is looming in your child’s future, you may start worrying if they will be reading on time, but if you are sending your child to a day care, such as Child’s World Academy, that is focused on education and kindergarten preparedness, you probably have little to worry about. However, it is not a bad idea to understand the stages of literacy, so that you can reinforce the key skills and so you can have reasonable expectations. The three stages of pre-literacy development that contribute to literacy are language development, print awareness, and phonemic awareness.We will cover these in this week’s blog.
Our understanding about how a child hears and understands language is itself in its infancy. A study covered in an article in the New York Times states that children as just a few months old can distinguish phonetic sounds. An article in the Guardian confirms what many parents have believed for years, that talking to babies makes them smarter. If you speak to a baby as if they understand, and avoid baby talk, the babies will have vocabularies and language processing skills above those of babies whose parents did not talk to them much. Additionally, these benefits last for years!
When babies are read to with regularity, they pick up literacy skills that we often take for granted. When you sit and read with your child every evening, they see you pick up the book carefully, hold it so that it opens to the left and watch you read the words, perhaps you use your finger to show what word you are reading, left to right. Watch them the next time they sit down with a book on their own and see what they intuitively have picked up. During this phase, you can start teaching them the alphabet and that certain letters go with certain words. This is when many parents enlist the help of Cookie Monster and his song “C is for Cookie”. They can also benefit from toys that emphasize the shape of the letters, such as foam bath letters.
The next stage is built on the first two and is phonemic awareness. This stage has been identified as an indicator of later literacy. Even if a child is a bit slow learning to read, but they have accurate phonemic awareness, they will learn to read, at their pace perhaps. Children who lack phonemic awareness and depend instead on memorizing words may read sooner than others, but overall have trouble reading later on when sounding out a word is needed.
So what is phonemic awareness? It is the connection, the understanding, that every letter makes its sound. This is complicated in English by the fact that while we have 26 letters, there are 44 phonemes or sounds. Reading books that step up in difficulty with phonemic awareness in mind, helps children learn to read without becoming confused or discouraged.
To learn how we help children get ready for kindergarten, call and schedule a tour of our daycare!