Are we providing the best quality literacy education for our children in the pre-school years?
It's so easy to feel that we need to bow to pressure from parents who are pushing us to focus on the mechanics of reading and writing, but literacy involves much more. I read something today that caught my eye, which was that we should be focussing on reading to learn, rather than on learning to read.
Children are capable of gathering meaning well before they are capable of de-coding written language. Literacy is learned within the socio-cultural context in which the child lives. The child develops his/her identity through his/her exposure to the literacies which exist in the context in which he/she lives. He/she acquires values and an understanding of what is considered normal or acceptable behaviour, or acceptable views about the world.
I believe that the focus in the years before school should be on developing understanding and meaning, and acquiring a love of learning. We are providing opportunities for children to gather information and meaning and develop as literate individuals through conversations, modelling, story-telling, reading to them, and exposing them to text and images in books, in the environment and within technologies.
Leave reading and writing for school. Instead think about how to make literacy fun. Read, read, read! Choose books from the best children's authors and that are related to the children's interests at the time. Challenge them with discussions about the characters and the plots. Ask them to predict the outcomes or suggest alternative outcomes. Use props, puppets, costumes, dramatization and story-boards. Encourage the children to create dramatic play situations, props or environments related to the stories that they hear. Help them to invent original stories and make their own books.
Children will develop a love of literacy and the imaginative and creative possibilities that it involves. They will be excited to be able to delve into the world of literacy on their own. By the time they are old enough for prep they won't be able to wait to learn to read and write!