Wednesday, February 1, 2017

5 Important Stages of Literacy

Sometimes kids think that they do not know how to read or write because of their age. However, we know that children are building their literacy skills from the time they are in the womb and it is our job to help them work on these skills.

The first literacy skill children use is Listening.



There was a study conducted by the Department of Early Education that showed that an 18 month old child learns 9 words per day, so in a 6 month time period that is 1700 words! In 6 months! Think of the 18 month old children you interact with. Do they speak 2,000 words? Probably not, but they can comprehend.


Most of these understood words are learned through Conversation Mode or Command Mode. Conversation Mode is when parents speak to children as though they will respond.
And Command Mode is only directive, “Don’t hit your sister, turn off the phone, eat dinner, brush your teeth, go to bed.” Children who are mostly spoken to in Command Mode only learn 3 words/day vs 9 words through conversation mode. Speaking to your child in conversation mode can increase their language acquisition by over 50%. Children only spoken to in command mode start school with a deficit in vocabulary and comprehension.

Children who are in the listening stage are usually younger and the best type of books for them are board books. They can use their different senses with these books such as chewing, touching, or smelling. These are usually short stories as well which is good because their attention span at this age doesn’t last very long.

The next skill typically learned is Talking.

With this skill children enter the Verbal Learning Stage. This is when children have to hear themselves talk in order to learn. Asking a child to sit and be quiet before the age of 6 is like asking them to sit down and not think. Information is processed verbally at this stage. The more they talk the more they learn.

Repetition book are helpful during this stage. They will start to memorize the story and then they can “read” too, or rhyming books that children can “read” and repeat with you. We need to allow and encourage children to talk and talk and talk during this stage in order to promote learning.

Writing is the next skill typically learned.

Typically for children this skill begins with pictures and symbols, not just with writing words like we think of when we write.


Environmental Print is  “Print of everyday life...symbols, signs, numbers, and colors found in McDonalds, Wal-mart, Exxon, Pizza Hut, 7-Up, and websites, for instance. They offer excellent entry points for young children to begin to learn to read, write, and do math... Children have a concrete connection to everyday print. They ‘read’ it within the context of their own experiences...their interests and backgrounds. It bridges the gap between the functional print of school and the print outside.” -Sharon MacDonald, M. Ed.

Symbols on bathrooms, stop signs, hearts, shapes etc. these are all examples of environmental print kids might see and know what they mean. One of the first steps to reading is recognizing environmental print. Look for books with lots of bright print and symbols where pictures offer sequencing cues. Wordless books are great for kids who are in this stage. Lots of pictures where a child can tell the story is a great way to support your child’s developing, or emergent, skills at this stage.

Eventually, we do begin to include letters. What are the first letters that ANY child is going to learn? Their name. Let them scribble, draw stories, and then tell their stories to you. Scribbling is an important skill to have, but I have worked with lots of parents who don’t give crayons or anything to scribble with until their child goes to kindergarten. I know it can get messy, but this is a really important skill. Consider doing chalk outside, using poster paper, or having a special table just for writing that kids can get messy. This is all part of acquiring the emergent literacy skill of writing.

Decoding is the next literacy skill children will learn.

This begins when your child understands that each letter represents a specific sound, they know that associated sound, and they begin to put them together. Looking at each, individual letter and putting them together. It is good to read the book to them first, and then let them read. They can practice decoding with the vocabulary and comprehension in tact. Remember, decoding does not mean comprehension.

Comprehension is also a skill!

Comprehension is a skill that happens throughout the whole literacy process. However, when a child can read a book and understand what is happening, this usually means they are comprehending. Books that have a pattern or a sequence are great for this last stage. Children comprehend when they understand the sequence of a story.

Remember to Read, Write, and Talk everyday with your children!

If you are interested in attending Welcome Baby classes and you are in Utah County you can look here to see when they are available. If you are outside of Utah County, call Help Me Grow and we can help you find a similar class! 801-691-5322.



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