Understanding The Unique Challenges of Today’s Early Literacy
Early Literacy Past: The Roots of Childhood &
Childhood is a fairly new concept. Historically, we have not always recognized children as distinct from adults nor valued them as independent individuals. The awareness of childhood as a distinct & separate phase from adulthood began to gain traction in the 1740s.
Read more about child development
As the concept of childhood grew, so too did the role of children’s literature. Literature was once reserved for the papacy & the aristocracy, but the printing press precipitated the growth of a literate society. Books were printed for all, including children!
Read about The First Children’s Books
Early Literacy Present: Today’s Challenge & Demand
As our understanding of child development has grown over time, and as the number & variety of books has increased, it has become more challenging to know how to select appropriately helpful children’s books. Our desire for specificity has grown, and the choices that have come with it are overwhelming.
At times, we wonder if early literacy matters & at other moments, we are so focused on wanting the children around us to succeed that we miss them in pursuit of a goal we can’t clearly identify anymore. We are so busy making sure they are reading x number of minutes or all the right suggested literature, we forget books & reading are tools to support holistic learning. In short, we take the fun out of it!
When learning becomes a demand, learning will become less. So let’s re-orient ourselves with the goal of early literacy – preparation for a lifelong love of learning – & let’s consider this goal as we look at 3 trends happening in early literacy today…
3 Trends In Today’s Early Literacy Scene
1. Focus on Whole Child Development
First, as in many arenas today, there is an increased emphasis on holistic development – IQ, EQ, behavior. language & motivation. While advocates of whole child development may use different words to emphasize various aspects of growth, the consensus is each piece is significant & impact the whole. So in addition to finding books suitable for each age/stage of development, there is now an interest in each aspect of each stage, as mentioned above. For example, we are interested not only in preschool books, but books that will help the preschooler express anger appropriately (emotional development).
In other words, books are becoming more specific (often more developmentally-targeted).
2. Increased Value of Early Literacy
As the role of literacy & children’s literature have gained importance, an increased emphasis on early literacy has emerged. Simply put, we are valuing early literacy more & more. Today’s early literacy emphasis means more people are reading more books to younger & younger ages. In turn, the market is producing more choices for younger audiences. Such as this non-toxic book your baby can chew on!
3. Literacy’s Expanding Scope
As with literacy, the definition of early literacy is expanding. As it relates to development, early literacy includes not only a variety of early, developmentally-targeted books, but also encompasses pre-literate activities. Developmentally-appropriate early literacy includes interactive, hands-on activities, such as sequencing a picture story, moving while singing your ABC’s or stacking blocks to build stamina. Sometimes these activities are connected to books or stories, sometimes not.
Quick 3 Examples of Early Literacy “Beyond Books”
- Language & Communication Skills
Since we know literacy is impacted by oral language development, anything that supports speech & listening is a potential candidate for the early literacy market.
Check out this website where you can hear audio book readings from celebrities.
Summing up Today’s Early Literacy Challenge
Early literacy involves selecting developmentally-appropriate children’s literature & it goes beyond books! There are more options than ever before which can be paralyzing or helpful.
In addition to the universal complexity of early literacy is the fact that each child has unique developmental needs. How do you choose the right early literacy tool for each need?
2. Digital Learning
Don’t forget the digital world! Literacy in today’s global economy includes how to use a computer, the latest app & other tech-savvy products. For an early introduction to an educational app, try this one free for 30 days (ages 2-8).
Literacy is no longer limited to reading & writing. Colleges now offer courses such as math literacy. How do you help kids connect literacy to (or develop competency in) other subjects? Try these two simple activities with a child near you & you’ve already begun!
Preschooler: Count outloud while you stack blocks.
1st-3rd Grader: Ask them why they think one doesn’t begin with “w” & see where the conversation goes!