By Diana Townsend-Butterworth
The ability to read and write, to understand the subtleties of language, to think and reason clearly, and to communicate effectively with others is key to success in school and in life. Researchers have identified a window of time from birth to around age 8 as crucial for a child's development of literacy.
Preschool teachers develop literacy by continually exposing children to oral and written language, and by building on prior knowledge and language experiences. Pictures, play, and the printed word combine with oral language to help your child understand the symbolic representation that underlies reading and writing. Her teacher will use a variety of fun, engaging strategies in the classroom to develop literacy. (You can also find out what to expect in math, social studies, science, and art.)
Reading aloud: A small group of children cluster around their teacher in the reading corner, listening intently as she reads The Cat in the Hat. She holds up the book so they can see the illustrations and talk about them. The teacher asks questions about the story and the children make predictions about what will happen next. By actively participating in the story, preschoolers acquire skills that will promote future success in reading. They learn new vocabulary and gain an understanding of the way stories are structured. They also experience high-level thinking as they form connections between the story and what they know in life.
Poetry: Nursery rhymes, songs, and poetry are a key part of literacy development, says Bernice E. Cullinan, Ph.D., professor emerita at New York University and the author of more than 40 books on reading, including Read to Me — Raising Kids Who Love to Read. Listening to, and repeating, poetry is a wonderful way for children to learn phonemic awareness. That is the ability to notice and isolate the individual sounds, or phonemes, in words, like the "c" in cat or the "b" in bat — a key skill for future success in reading. Preschoolers first learn that speech is made up of sounds, syllables, and words indirectly from listening to stories, nursery rhymes, poetry, and conversations. They gain phonemic awareness, says Cullinan, by "playing with language" — by meowing like the cat in the story a teacher is reading, or making up nonsense rhymes. Rhyming games also help children think about sound and the structure of words.
Storytelling: Listening teaches story structure and helps children learn to predict outcomes, says Bill Gordh, an author, storyteller, and director of expressive arts at the Episcopal School in New York City. He finds children get caught up in the rhythm of his stories and understand them instinctively, without explanation. One advantage of storytelling (versus reading aloud from a book), according to Gordh, is that you can change the story depending on how the children respond. He believes children learn the meaning of the story by responding verbally and with physical gestures. When you tell a story, says Gordh, "it is just you and the children and language. The moment is unique. They have to remember the story because they can't go pick up a book and reread it."
The printed word: To understand how print works, preschoolers need to be surrounded by it — in books and magazines, in signs around the classroom, on bulletin boards, in labels on their clothes and possessions. They need to learn that written words correspond to spoken words, that words are composed of letters, and that sentences are made up of words with spaces between the words. They learn that in English we read from left to right and from the top to the bottom of the page. They are encouraged to incorporate the written word into their pretend play.
Sign up for our free newsletter and we'll send you
more just like it every week.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.