Learning to Become Literate
"In any literate society, people constantly see the best way to teach children how to read and write so that the younger generation can become fully functioning members of that society." (Savage 15) This is obviously an important goal of any society that wants their children to be well educated and succeed in the world. Learning to be literate is a very important developmental milestone that is recognized cross-culturally. Its social importance is shown in the fact that in school; literacy makes up 2/3 of the three "R's". (Savage 15)
When becoming literate the most important thing a child can learn is that they can in fact learn in the way their school wants them to. They can be part of the school society and feel like they fit in with their friends who use literacy to communicate and play. "The bond between the teacher and the taught is strengthened; exploration, discovery, ambition and achievement expand and flourish." (Meek 1) Reading and writing opens up a new world of opportunities for children and therefore is continuous research being done in order to ensure that the best methods of teaching our children are implemented. However studies show that a large portion of this milestone occurs before formal education is ever begun. (McLane and McNamee 4)
The fact that we wait so long to start to teach our children literacy is absurd. Teaching reading and writing should be done to all children in day care facilities, child development centers as well as head start programs and preschools. We cannot however just take the programs currently used in first grade classes and apply them to children in day cares and preschools. These would be developmentally inappropriate. (Strickland and Morrow 5) The program used for these younger learners must be based around "meaningful activities that involve reading and writing in a wide variety of ways." The children should want to participate in the literate society that they are surrounded by everyday in their classroom, home and community. If this is accomplished there will automatically be a connection between literacy and experience, which is very beneficial to the learning process. Most importantly in the early childhood literacy curriculum that we apply the focus should always be on the child's learning and not on the teaching. (6) Since a large portion of learning to become literate occurs prior to formal education parents need to be aware of what they can do before their children reach school age. (McLane and McNamee 4) "Family members, caretakers and teachers play critical roles in early literacy development by serving as models, providing materials, demonstrating their use, reading to children, offering help, instruction and encouragement and communicating hopes and expectations." (143) It is important that we as a society, and as parents or caretakers work to understand what we can do in order to give our children every advantage we can when it comes to literacy. In order to understand the development of literacy we must study two things. First the environment in which the child will grow up and develop in. Secondly, the ways in 3
which these settings will provide the opportunity for the child to be involved with things such as books, paper and writing tools. This is important because in our westernized culture literacy begins prior to formal education. This could be in the places like the home or other community settings like preschool and daycare. (McLane and McNamee 4) Some believe literacy occurs biologically. This is entirely false. Children will not become interested in reading or writing unless they are around it and observe it. (7) This isn't a difficult task because children are almost around it whether parents realize it or not. Parents and family members are models of literate behavior that young children will imitate and in turn learn. (90) Parents also give access to materials for reading such as packages of food, medication...
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