March 17, 2011
I’ve covered the six early literacy skills that make up Every Child Ready to Read. I think it is important to clearly state that these skills are designed to get children ready to read, not that children should start reading at age 3 or 4. The organization Zero to Three has some excellent research available on all subjects early childhood. On a document about early literacy, they state:
“Our current understanding of early language and literacy development has provided new ways of helping children learn to talk, read, and write. But it does not advocate ‘the teaching of reading’ to younger and younger children. Formal instruction which pushes infants and toddlers to achieve adult models of literacy (i.e., the actual reading and writing of words) is not developmentally appropriate. Early literacy theory emphasized the more natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between young children and adults, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences. Formal instruction to require young children who are not developmentally ready to read is counter productive and potentially damaging to children, who may begin to associate reading and books with failure.”
As a children’s librarian, I saw fairly often parents pushing their very young children to read. There is such a pressure for children to succeed and get ahead that some parents feel like their child is behind if they aren’t ahead. It’s worth remembering, and even reminding, that literacy is a process and children will begin to read when they are ready. It’s also important to stress that the relationship the child has with the people who he or she cares about the most (including the literacy relationship) has the greatest effect on when the child begins to read and the success he or she will have. In the meantime, use and teach the six skills: Print Motivation, Vocabulary, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness.