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A Preschool Teacher’s Guide to Literacy Development in Early Childhood

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 1/4/2012

Moving from pictures-only books to emerging letter and word recognition is the hallmark of literacy development in early childhood. Preschool teachers provide a literacy friendly environment within the classroom, but what else can be done to help the budding bookworm develop into a skilled reader?

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    Importance of Literacy Development

    It is common knowledge that learning to read in childhood depends on a firm foundation of reading readiness exercises and materials. The importance of this educational aspect is underscored in the training and certification requirements of preschool teachers. As outlined by Bright Hub’s own Susan Carter in her article entitled “Early Childhood Praxis II Study Guide," educators’ literacy testing sections are given the most weight, while math and science come in second and third.

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    Understanding Literacy Requirements

    To the casual onlooker, there is precious little reading going when s/he observes the preschooler leafing through a picture book or scribbling on a piece of paper. To the trained preschool teacher, this is an example of budding readers taking their first forays in the world of literacy. This process is multifaceted and the more reading prep requirements are successfully provided, the better the chances of children to actually develop into bookworms.

    • Literacy development is a team effort. (1) No preschool teacher alone can provide the encouragement, resources and follow up required that will help a young child work toward reading. The reading oriented classroom with its many books and available materials must be complemented by a literacy rich home environment.
    • It is a progressive effort. Blessing or curse, but a preschool teacher will not have the satisfaction of looking back onto the school year with the ability to point to a child and noting her/his transition from emergent to conventional literacy. Instead, the actual literacy growth may be as slow or as fast as the child’s ability to process the lessons of literacy activities offered in the classroom and may span a few years.
    • It defies streamlining. Part of the fascination early childhood literacy development holds to the educator is its evolutionary process. Children go from picture recognition to word size and symbol identification. This process cannot be hurried but is as individual as the child. Preschool teachers provide ample reading materials that appeal to the visual tastes of young children as well as their needs to assign values to words.
    • Storytelling supports literacy development. Taking a page from the public librarian’s playbook (2), preschool children love story time and educators incorporate active storytelling techniques to generate interest, set a mood and also invoke an emotional response to the story.
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    Counteracting Successful Forays

    Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of being an educator dedicated to fostering literacy development in early childhood is the inability to guarantee proper follow up. A home devoid of developmentally appropriate literacy materials is a very real danger to a child’s budding reading awareness. Experts in the field of literacy development also point to the misuse of early literacy assessments when deciding on a child’s reading potential as being a hindrance to the natural evolution of her/his language evolution. (3)

    This being said, there is plenty of good news! The overwhelming importance of preschool educator’s training in literacy helps educators to learn how to overcome obstacles that might otherwise have adverse effects on their pupil’s evolving reading abilities.