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Early Literacy is More than Letter Learning

Have you ever had experience with parents of preschoolers who see letter learning as the end-all-be-all literacy skill? For whatever reason, they seem to think if their preschooler can’t name all the alphabet letters by the end of preschool, then the year was a loss. Or maybe you’ve had an administrator that sees letter recognition as the key early learning goals for literacy and is constantly wanting data on letter recognition.

It can be frustrating because, as preschool teachers, we know that early literacy is so much more than just memorizing letters!

While letter recognition is a part of the puzzle, it’s just one piece in a large lot of skills that young children are developing during this crucial emergent literacy stage.

So, what exactly is the Emergent Literacy Stage? In short, it’s when children are learning about reading and writing BEFORE actually reading and writing.

Once children enter Kindergarten, the focus shifts to actively decoding written words. Children learn letter-sound relationships, phonics, and basic sight words, allowing them to sound out unfamiliar words. But, what they learn during the Emergent Literacy Stage is what builds that strong foundation for the later stages.

So, if we only focus on letter learning… we are doing our preschoolers a pretty big disservice.

What Emergent Literacy Skills should we focus on?

  1. Language Development: This is the foundation of everything! Children need exposure to rich vocabulary, opportunities to engage in conversation, and experiences with different forms of language (songs, poems, stories).
  2. Concepts of Print: Understanding that print carries meaning, that letters represent sounds, and how text flows on a page – these are all crucial concepts that pave the way for reading comprehension.
  3. Phonological Awareness: It’s all about the sounds of language! Activities that focus on rhyming, identifying beginning sounds, and manipulating syllables help children break down words and prepare for decoding written words later.
  4. Writing: Yes, writing too! Even if it’s just scribbles and circles, providing opportunities for children to express themselves through writing tools and materials fosters creativity and lays the groundwork for future writing skills.

By focusing on a holistic approach to early literacy, we can equip our young learners with the foundational skills they need for future reading and writing success. Remember, letter learning is a part of the journey, but it’s the love of language, exploration, and play that will truly set them on the path to becoming lifelong learners.

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