Our brains may be wired for speaking, but they are actually not wired for reading and writing. Learn more about how literacy skills evolve throughout a child’s development.
Birth - Age 3
Building a solid foundation in literacy begins at birth. You may be asking yourself how exactly does one read to an infant? Is my baby absorbing this story? These are all great questions with a not so complicated answer. During the Emergent Pre-Reader stage, it’s actually less about books and more about language - the language that your baby hears. The more spoken language whether through song, nursery rhymes, story-telling, audiobooks, or children’s books that your child hears, the more ready she will be to learn to read.
When it comes to books, it’s important to allow you and your baby to enjoy books in the way that makes sense for you and her - on your lap, in the car, in bed, during feeding time, etc... And- there really is no right or wrong book. Chunky board books, soft fabric books and vinyl books are all great and serve multiple purposes that not only assist in later reading development but also build strong thinking and social emotional skills.
The Emergent Pre-Reader
Kinder & 1st Grade
The Novice Reader
Welcome to a truly exciting and BUSY time because your Novice Reader is now ready to link speech sounds to letters to decode words, and will soon start to make sense of what they read. Get ready to look out for the many light bulbs illuminating left and right during this phase!
Without getting too scientific, at this stage learning to read involves many different skills that must be systematically and explicitly taught to your child. Whether in a traditional school-house model, remote learning, or elective home education (home-school), instruction in the 5 critical areas of reading (phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension) is essential to the growth and development of your Novice Reader.
Additionally, in order to develop more advanced language patterns, vocabulary and comprehension, it is important to continue reading to your child on a level above where they can read on their own. The good news is that your Kinder/1st Grader has very likely already been exposed to many of these areas at home with you or in Daycare, Preschool or Kindergarten.
Book selection for independent reading during this phase can be tricky, as reading has typically not fully “taken off.” Still observe in amazement as your Novice Reader begins to read simple text containing high-frequency words and phonetically regular words, and notice how they use their emerging skills and insights to sound out new words!
By the time your child has turned 4 their brains have already magically begun laying the foundation for Literacy. This is an exciting time for your Emergent Reader - a time to have more fun with the literacy activities you naturally engage in at home. More than likely your child is ready for you to take these activities up a notch so go ahead and play word or sound games.
Teach your child to recognize and manipulate the sounds of speech by clapping syllables in words, producing words that rhyme, or pretending to be a sound detective by guessing a word that you say the sounds for. Introduce poems to your child, talk about word meanings and discover new and interesting words when you read together.
As your Emergent Reader grows, try labeling objects in your home. Creating this type of print-rich environment will not only give your child a head start with reading, but also shows the importance of language, and the connection between spoken and written language.
Allow your Emergent Reader to ask wondering questions about the books that you read together. This will help your child build their background knowledge on various topics. You can also begin to ask your child questions before, during and after reading a book together. Most importantly, be sure your child is choosing stories that interest him. This is such a sacred time - a time of connection, learning, and fun!
The Emergent Reader
2nd Grade & Up
The Decoding Reader
During this miraculous phase, your reader is ready to launch into fluent reading and really experience the true essence of reading -- understanding. The most noticeable difference between a Novice Reader and a Decoding Reader is that “sounded-out,” or careful reading shifts to smoother, confident reading. Also developing during this stage is knowing when to reread a sentence or text in order to improve your overall understanding.
The Decoding Reader still requires direct instruction in the 5 critical areas of reading including advanced decoding skills, but should also engage in plenty of reading. This cannot be stressed enough.
The more a Decoding Reader reads, the more he/she will learn about what’s inside of words. More specifically the roots, prefixes, and suffixes that make up the morphemes of the English Language. Knowing this information will support spelling, vocabulary knowledge and ultimately comprehension.
Let’s not forget that during this time, still critical is the notion of reading aloud to a Decoding Reader at a level above his/her own independent reading. This is for a continued growth and development of more complex language skills, vocabulary and comprehension concepts.