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Lack of school readiness for children from disadvantaged backgrounds due to social, physical, or economic factors is related to inadequate language and literacy experiences in early childhood.
-Susan Landry

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Children learn about books by being read to.Emergent Reading

Starting from birth children learn about books by listening to stories being read to them. As they grow and are able to handle books, they learn that there is a front and back cover and pages. Children as young as 24 months develop a sense about literacy as they explore books and engage in storybook reading activities. Children learn many skills as they are given opportunities to participate in literacy activities during their preschool years.

Emergent Literacy Concepts

Children develop concepts about print as they explore books by themselves or with others. These concepts include the understanding that:

  • Pictures and words are used to communicate.
  • Pictures have meaning.
  • Pictures tell stories.
  • Words have meaning.
  • Words are used to tell stories.

Classroom Activities to Support Print Concepts

Choosing and Using Literature

The following practices identified by Project ELIPSS support emergent literacy in the classroom and home.

  • A wide variety of good children’s books – picture books, informational books, nursery rhymes and poetry books – is available to each child.
  • There are approximately 5-8 books for each child in a classroom reading area, and approximately 20 books in a child’s personal home collection.
  • Books available to children reflect:
    • events and experiences that take place in their everyday lives
    • unbiased approach to gender, race, culture, age, and individual abilities.
  • Adults answer questions that arise during reading aloud time.
  • Adults honor children’s requests to have some books read over and over.
Opportunities for children which support emergent literacy in the classroom and home
  • visit the library regularly
  • make book choices based on their individual interests
  • read books that tell about their culture, age, and individual abilities
  • make predictions about the book’s contents
  • comment on the story and illustrations
  • extend their enjoyment and understanding of stories through art, music, drama, and writing activities.
Tips for selecting books for young children

Young children like books that:

  • have good pictures
  • Good pictures for children are clear, not too busy, and easy to tell the story from looking at the pictures

  • tell about things they know about
  • Children enjoy books which contain people and objects children can relate to and tell about experiences children have

  • are funny or silly – exaggerate and fantasize
  • provide interesting information
  • Information interesting to children includes new ideas, facts, new words for children to learn, new experiences, or details which build upon existing words

  • tell a story (have a clear beginning, middle, and ending)

Reading Aloud to Children

The National Research Council in their 1998 report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children recommend reading aloud to children as a strategy to prevent reading difficulties. This helps extend children’s vocabulary, lengthen their attention span, create pleasurable atmosphere related to language and books, and help children learn about the flow of print. Children benefit from a variety of different types of books including big books, predictable books, and picture books. the top

Big Books

Big Books are over-sized picture books with enlarged pictures and print. They can be easily seen by children in a small group. Qualities to look for:

  • contains same elements found in any good children’s literature
  • good quality illustrations – photographs or pictures
  • well-spaced print
  • durable construction

Tips for using big books can be found in Choosing and Using Big Books from Project ELIPSS.

Predictable Books

Predictable Books contain repetitive phrases or verses, cumulative patterns, a familiar story line, or language with rhythm and rhyme. These books help children:

  • Gain a sense of control and confidence in beginning reading
  • Learn about letters, words, sentences, punctuation marks
  • Learn that words are read left to right and top to bottom

Tips for using predictable books can be found in Choosing and Using Predictable Books from Project ELIPSS

Picture Books

Picture books are publications in which the pictures either stand alone or dominate the text, or words and pictures have equal importance. (Young Children and Picture Books, Mary Renck Jalongo, NAEYC, 1988). With these books, children:

  • Learn new words and expressions
  • Are introduced to a variety of writing styles, authors, and illustrators
  • Begin to build a “mental storehouse” of letters and words that they can use in their own future writing
  • Develop the ability to retell stories after hearing them again and again
  • Develop understanding of parts of stories

Tips for using picture books can be found in Using Picture Books to Inspire Young Writers from Project ELIPSS. the top

Promotion of Early Reading

The U.S. Department of Education and several national organizations have devoted resources to promote early reading. These publications are available to view and print from websites or pdf files.

The National Research Council provides a guide for early reading in their publication, Starting Out Right. Recommendations are given for activities, books, and other literacy materials to promote young children’s skills.

National Research Council guide for early reading in their "Starting Out Right"

Helping Your Child Become a Reader is a publication by U.S. Department of Education containing information and activities for families. This can be downloaded and printed as a pdf file.

View Muliticultural Principles for Head Start.

Helping Your Child Become a Reader

Learning to Read/Reading to Learn Campaign: Helping Children with Learning Disabilities to Succeed provides tips for families and teachers on strengthening children’s reading skills.

View Learning to Read.

Learning to Read/Reading to Learn Campaign: Helping Children with Learning Disabilities to Succeed-

National Institute for Literacy has two publications, A Child Becomes a Reader: Kindergarten Through Grade 3 and A Child Becomes a Reader: Birth Through Preschool which can be downloaded and printed as pdf files. These publications contain tips and strategies for literacy at home and in the classroom or early intervention program.

View National Institute for Literacy.

National Institute for Literacy has two publications, A Child Becomes a Reader: Kindergarten Through Grade 3 and A Child Becomes a Reader: Birth Through Preschool the top

View Oral Language Development....Oral Language Development | Emergent Reading | Emergent Writing...Emergent Writing.

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Main Topics

Oral Language Development
Emergent Reading
Emergent Writing

Emergent Reading
Literacy Concepts
Classroom Activities
Choosing/Using Literature
Tips for Book Selection
Reading Aloud
Big Books
Predictable Books
Picture Books
Promotion of Eearly Reading


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