EARLY LITERACY INITIATIVES
Language, Literacy, & Communication
Confidence in the ability to communicate effectively empowers children to approach new milestones in social and emotional learning with ease. Similarly, children who love reading from the start approach lifelong learning eagerly and confidently. Language, communication & literacy development unfold simultaneously and benefit tremendously from a nurturing early learning environment - beginning in infancy and transitioning smoothly from toddlers to twos and preschool to prekindergarten so that by the time children reach kindergarten, not only do they grasp the fundamentals of reading, phonetics, writing and spelling, but they also have established a love of stories, books, and learning in general.
Teaching infants as young as four months to communicate basic feelings and needs through infant sign language combines language and fine motor development. This process begins with adults modeling associations between words, concepts, and gestures until babies’ motor skills are strong enough to express their needs for themselves. Sign language gives infants a tool to communicate effectively without frustration - aiding in long-term emotional, verbal, and cognitive development. Learning to sign prior to speech can accelerate verbal development as babies learn and practice word associations at an earlier age.
Toddlerhood is a great time to begin actively promoting early literacy when children are progressing from communication through gestures to using one, two, and then eventually three word sentences. Language development typically takes off around 18 months. By age two, children have learned between 100-1,000 words and are actively experimenting with plurals and tenses. Providing children with consistent and engaging stimulation at this age will help ignite their vocabulary development as their curiosities are piqued about fun and engaging activities and topics.
Twos are able to comprehend most of the language that they hear, and they are developing an awareness of print. In terms of their own verbal development, their vocabulary and language explodes from two word sentences to six or more word sentences by the time they are three, and they begin to use pronouns appropriately. During this year, children’s natural love of inquiry takes root; they are eager to learn as much as they possibly can, learning new words and expressing themselves in new ways more every day. A classroom environment helps two-year-olds make the most of this natural curiosity by guiding and building on their interests with lesson plans and activities tailored to this unique stage in language and literacy development.
Between three and four, children begin to notice print more and more every day. They begin to realize that letters make words and want to know the meaning of every word they see. They are experimenting with writing letters and are very excited to write familiar names and words. They speak in full sentences the majority of the time and can carry on a conversation for at least two turns, and their vocabulary expands to over 500 words. Their love of books expands with their growing attention span, and now they are able to sit for longer stories as well as remember and understand more complex books.
Promoting literacy in prekindergarten builds upon the natural curiosities of students when the complexity of their speech, conversations, writing, and storytelling are evolving immensely. Pre-K students share their experiences through language and creative expression, whether it be about their day at school or a memory that inspires them. Teachers can use this as an opportunity to incorporate literacy initiatiaves wherever possible. Surrounding students with words and letters in the classroom and practicing writing daily helps students to eventually recognize sight words and develop enthusiasm about literacy and language expression before kindergarten.