Your child won’t run if at first they cannot walk. The same principle goes when it comes to basic language skills. They won’t be able to communicate until they have the very foundation needed for it: literacy. But what is it in the first place?
Literacy development in children is more than just learning about their A, B, Cs. In this article, we’ll look into what literacy means and its building blocks. We’ll also talk about what you need to do to support your child’s literacy development.
What is Literacy and Why is it Important for Children
Literacy is the umbrella concept that covers a child’s ability to read, listen, and speak. Children with high literacy can understand and use language both in speech and writing.
“90% of brain growth happens before kindergarten” starts, so literacy is one of the core skills that kids need to start learning early. School age children with literacy difficulties, especially those with speech-language impairments, may experience negative long-term effects on their education.
A strong literacy foundation will help your child feel confident with reading and speaking. These skills don’t have to start when they get to the classroom, you can create a good literacy environment at home to help them get started early.
5 Essential Skills of Literacy Development
Many believe that literacy is only about your child’s reading skills. There are actually five essential skills for balanced literacy development.
Reading and Understanding Written Text (Comprehension)
Comprehension is the most common understanding of what literacy is. This is your child’s ability to understand and take in the information of what they are reading. This also relates to being able to pick-up what another person is saying and what it means, even at a normal speaking tone and pace.
Hearing and Identifying Sounds (Phonemic Awareness)
Phonemic awareness is your child’s familiarity and use of independent sounds to form words and create meaning. This means that your child should understand that the word “dog” is composed of the sounds of /d/, /o/, /g/.
Connecting written letters with spoken letters (Phonics)
Phonics may sound like phonemic awareness, but the meaning is different. Phonics covers your child’s ability to relate written letters to their corresponding sounds. This also includes learning about the sound changes required for combined letters, such as /sh/ or /ch/ sounds.
Unlike phonemic awareness, phonics is the relationship of sounds to written letters (symbols as they appear on a page), not with corresponding word meanings.
Remembering Words (Vocabulary)
Building vocabulary will practice your child’s word retention and memory. However, the process doesn’t stop with how many words your child can learn and memorize. They also need to know when to use the words they learned and identify them quickly when read.
Saying Words Accurately (Fluency)
Fluency is your child’s full functioning ability to write and talk at a natural pace without difficulty. Your child should be able to use words without stuttering, stammering or stopping unnecessarily mid-sentence.
Remember that everyone does repeat words and stop to think while speaking. Spoken fluency highlights the importance of conversing naturally with minimal pauses to reflect on word choices.
Important Roles for Literacy
Communication skills are best practiced with other people. For your young child, that means that you, as a parent and primary caregiver, will be their first teacher. But don’t worry, as there are many ways to encourage your child to grow their literacy skills. Parent involvement will help them learn the essentials before they even step foot into a classroom.
However, the parental role does not end when your child reaches school age. Literacy should still be a continuous learning process both in school and at home. Your active involvement through everyday language use will help boost their literacy development.
You can also work with your child’s teachers to ensure that they are getting the right exposure to language. Ask them about what they are learning in school and how you can best support them at home.
Here are more ways that you can assist your child with their literacy journey.
How Parents Can Help
- Include your child in home discussions and everyday activities. This will help them feel like they are part of the family and have a positive impact on their confidence in talking.
- Introduce your child to various songs and rhymes. They often include patterns that will practice repeating sounds especially at the beginning and end of words. Simple tongue twisters work too.
- Incorporate literacy skills with fun games. Educational activities will make literacy learning more of a fun and engaging activity instead of a chore. Here’s our list of speech therapy activities to help you get started.
- Read together and encourage reading for fun. Try to get your child to read along, but if there are more than 5 words that they can’t figure out, you can read the book aloud to them instead. Listening is a good exposure to books too.
- Be a good listener. By being an active listener instead of correcting or interrupting them, you will set an example of how to listen too.
What You Shouldn’t Do
- Don’t force them to read. Reading everyday can be a powerful practice tool for literacy but if your child feels like it’s a tedious activity, they might lose their enthusiasm. Set realistic goals like 20 minutes a day together and check their engagement levels from time to time. If they get bored, it might be time to change to a more interesting book, or learning through fun games.
- Don’t lose confidence. Literacy development doesn’t necessarily need to come from a genius or expert reader as a parent. Spoken language helps them too. Talking with your child on the day-to-day and telling them stories also builds their vocabulary and language skills.
- Don’t be heavy handed. Activities for language development should remain light and engaging. If there are any target sounds that they need to practice, do it only a few times a week instead of having your child sit down and repeat it for 5 minutes straight. This will only cause more stress.
Parent involvement is critical towards developing a child’s literacy abilities. It will take time to cover all aspects of your child’s literacy boost, but they can be combined with daily activities at home. Developing your child’s lifelong skills is well worth it.
Apheleia Speech can help you help your child with their early language development. To learn how, book a free consultation now with no lock-in contracts and no commitments.