Literacy is generally understood as the ability to read, write and use language in a way that allows one to communicate meaning and engage with other people. However, literacy is a highly complex notion that encompasses many other aspects such as personal experiences or cultural context.
Did you know that emergent literacy skills develop in children long before they go to school and begin to read and write? This is also known as reading readiness and it plays a very important role in child development. Parents can support early literacy development in their children by making them aware of books and prints, reading to them, playing phonics games, telling stories to develop their vocabulary and other similar activities. Focusing on early literacy development is essential for a number of reasons:
It has a profound influence on a child’s future
Early literacy skills are directly linked to a child’s ability to become a proficient reader. The earlier a child develops his literacy skills, the greater the chances to build strong reading skills faster. These aspects have a great impact on their academic performance later on. Studies have shown that the fourth grade represents an important turning point for students. Those who haven’t developed solid reading skills by now will experience greater difficulties in keeping up with the syllabus and the gap between them and their other peers who are proficient in reading will increase. They’ll have a hard time understanding subjects like math and science that occupy a central place in the school curriculum. As a result, children who fall in this category are four times more likely to drop out of school and end their academic journey here. This will obviously influence their career path and their entire future.
It supports learning
Literacy is a basic prerequisite for learning. A child who can’t read or write will face serious impediments in learning. Early literacy is therefore a pillar that supports reading, writing and all other forms of learning. If a child is passionate about a certain subject, reading is an absolute must if he wants to learn more about it. Otherwise the learning process will be riddled with obstacles that will make the student lose his self-confidence and interest, and eventually give up on his learning endeavour. That’s why early literacy can be seen as a gateway to learning.
It helps children develop empathy
A child who develops literacy skills early on has better chances at understanding the world around him. Researchers came to the conclusion that the reading materials we choose influence our perception of the world. For example, fiction stories help children become aware of other people’s thoughts and emotions. It makes it easier for them to understand that people are different and therefore not everyone thinks, feels or acts the same way. This helps them develop empathy and nurture feelings of acceptance and tolerance for those who are different from them.