Literacy in the Early Years is made up of the following
Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth.
It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together.
Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words.
Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).
Why reading comprehension is important
Oral language development is key to children’s development. Language development can be enhanced by the amount of spoken language a child hears and joins in with. Language comprehension is an important pre-requisite to children being able to understand what they read for themselves, when the teaching of phonics begins with us in Reception. It’s also important to later success with writing composition.
Language development links closely to listening and understanding. Introducing children to a wide range of words they would rarely hear or use increases their knowledge of vocabulary and concepts to help them understand the world around them. Hearing and talking about these words in context helps children to understand.
Listening to stories introduces children to words they would not often hear in everyday speech. It also gives them an awareness of sentence structure.
Providing a wide range of reading experiences to help children develop a love of reading, curiosity and wonder about the world around them is crucial. Providing a well sequenced reading curriculum to develop children’s knowledge of language and how it works, can create fluent, passionate and lifelong readers.
Why exploring words is important
Stories are an important part of life. Loving printed books and developing an enjoyment of looking at or hearing stories is an integral part of early years practice. Research shows that the amount of input young children receive from the adults around them makes a significant difference to how children learn to read and write in Reception classes. This section outlines the knowledge and skills that children need to develop:
- phonological awareness, the awareness of all of the sounds of language, it’s the ability to hear and distinguish sounds
- expressive language, vocabulary, grammar and changes to words such as plurals (known as morphology)
- receptive language, the ability to understand what is said
Word reading is explicitly taught in our Reception class, and all the early communication experiences parents and early years settings provide helps children to learn to read successfully.
Why writing is important
Writing is an important lifelong skill. Children need to learn to write so they can communicate and express themselves.
Formal writing, taught later in the Reception year, involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).
Formal writing before Reception is not necessary, however, it is important to provide lots of meaningful opportunities for children to learn about the written word and to support them to understand that symbols carry meaning.
Research shows that for writing to develop, we should provide young children with opportunities to build their physical strength and control in the core, upper body, hands and fingers.
Writing develops alongside all learning areas, especially communication and language, reading and mathematics.
When we read texts, we show that print carries meaning. When we write, we explain what decisions we are making in our minds, so children understand how they share thoughts, ideas and feelings. As we model writing we support children to:
- understand language patterns
- develop their thinking skills
- solve problems
- make sense of their experiences
Listening to children talking and modelling how to write down the words they say helps children to see how sounds become words on paper.
Sharing children’s early mark-making attempts with parents and carers builds children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Ways to support young children with early writing
To support transcription, we give children opportunities to develop finger strength. In the early stages children need lots of fun, play activities. We provide lots of activities to work at a large scale using brushes on walls outside, before they move on to using chunky crayons or pencils. For example, to develop finger strength in preparation for writing, we show them activities like manipulating dough, completing puzzles or threading blocks onto a rope.
We help children develop fine motor skills to grasp, hold, and strengthen fingers and thumbs by scrunching paper and using pick-up tools. For example, use big tweezers to pick up plastic shapes.
Give them opportunities to develop core strength and ‘muscle isolation’, a crucial first step towards writing. Activities like reaching across the body to put on socks and shoes help children to use their right, or left, body side without the other side moving at the same time. We also encourage activities like climbing, throwing and catching.
Children move through stages in their mark making. Gradually muscle control becomes more defined until they develop an ability to use straight lines and curves to form symbols.