Nature Kids

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Our Literacy Program

How Does The Reading Brain Work?

As described in the video, communication begins with hearing and responding to sounds. Children begin communicating and developing language the day they are born. As children grow and develop, they begin listening for different purposes and responding with words instead of sounds and gestures. Receptive language (listening) precedes expressive language (speaking). Receptive and expressive language skills, or oral language skills  lay the foundation for future success in reading and writing (Early Literacy Skills)

Early Literacy Skills

Early Literacy does not mean early reading.  Early literacy theory emphasizes the more natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between young children and adults, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences. Formal instruction to require young children who are not developmentally ready to read is counter productive and potentially damaging to children, who may begin to associate reading and books with failure.  

It is not about how early can we get the child to read but what can we do to give children the exposure to be ready to read once it is developmentally appropriate for them.  Early literacy recognizes that language, reading, and writing evolve from a number of earlier skills as listed below :

1- Print Motivation

Children's interest and motivation to read represents an important first-step in getting them ready to read.

2- Enriched Vocabulary

Increased vocabulary give children a huge advantage when learning to read.

3-Narrative Skills

Ability to tell stories and describing  sequence of events.

4-Print Awareness

Knowledge on how to handle a book, follow words on a page, and noticing that printed words are all around us.

5-Phonological Awareness

Playing with the sounds in words, including rhymes, initial sounds, and breaking words into syllables.

Print Motivation

Teaching children that reading is fun represents an important first-step in getting them ready to read.  Children that see reading as fun and rewarding will "stick to it" and be motivated to learn. Our Story time sessions are our special time with the children, allowing them to ask questions and participate., talking to them about how the book relates to their life and experiences.  Children who enjoy books will want to learn to read and are more likely to become lifelong readers.

Enriched Vocabulary

Vocabulary plays an important part in learning to read. Beginning readers must use the words they hear orally to make sense of the words they see in print. Children who hear more words spoken at home and preschools learn more words and enter elementary school with better vocabularies. This larger vocabulary pays off exponentially as a child progresses through school. 

An enriched vocabulary means knowing the names of a variety of things. When children have a relatively large vocabulary compared to their peers, it is a huge advantage when learning to read.  Reading comprehension depends on knowing the meaning of words in a written passage.  When a word is already in a child's vocabulary, the process of connecting that written word with the spoken word is easier and faster.  The language children learn helps them enjoy and understand the world around them and helps prepare them to become lifelong learners.  

Narrative Skills

Narrative skills represent an ability to describe things and events, tell stories, and describe sequences of actions.  Because spoken and written language are correlated, oral skills create a readiness to read.   Research consistently shows that children that can speak well and use a richer vocabulary have higher reading scores. Being able to tell or retell a story helps children understand what they have read.

Print Awareness

Children who have an awareness of print understand that the squiggly lines on a page represent spoken language. They understand that when adults read a book, what they say is linked to the words on the page, rather than to the pictures. Children with print awareness understand that print has different functions depending on the context in which it appears — for example, menus list food choices, a book tells a story, a sign can announce a favorite restaurant or warn of danger. 

Print awareness is understanding that print is organized in a particular way — for example, knowing that print is read from left to right and top to bottom. It is knowing that words consist of letters and that spaces appear between words. Print awareness is a child's earliest introduction to literacy. Print awareness is a child's earliest understanding that written language carries meaning. The foundation of all other literacy learning builds upon this knowledge.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness looks at four concepts:

  • Phoneme.  The smallest part of the way a words sounds.  The word "is" has 2 phonemes (/i/ /s/) and the word "lick" has 3 (/l/ /i/ /k/).  The English language has about 42 phonemes. 
  • Grapheme.  Sounds that we use in English can be represented by one letter or two.  These are the smallest part of our written language that represents a sound.  Examples of one-letter graphemes include b, d, k, and r.  Examples of two-letter graphemes include br, ch, and sh
  • Phonemic Awareness.  Learning to hear, identify, and manipulate each sound in a word (phoneme). 
  • Phonics.  Understanding the relationship between phonemes (sounds of words) and graphemes (how a word is written).  

Most of the children who have an understanding of phonological awareness have an easier time learning to read.  To understand a spoken language, a child must be able to hear and distinguish the sounds that make up that language.  Children that develop an ability to recognize rhymes, syllables, and phonemes learn to read quicker.  Picture books for young children are written to help.  Playing word games is important too.

Sounds of Speech

To understand a spoken language, a child must be able to hear and distinguish the sounds that make up the language. Virtually every child raised in a normal linguistic environment can distinguish between different speech sounds in his or her native language. Children who are not able to hear the difference between similar-sounding words like grow and glow will be confused when these words appear in context, and their comprehension skills will suffer dramatically.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words. An example of how beginning readers show us they have phonemic awareness is combining or blending the separate sounds of a word to say the word ("/c/ /a/ /t/ - cat.").
Phonemic awareness and phonics are not the same thing. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that the sounds of spoken language work together to make words. Phonics is the understanding that there is a relationship between letters and sounds through written language. Children who cannot hear and work with the phonemes of spoken words will have a difficult time learning how to relate these phonemes to letters when they see them in written words.

Phonics and Decoding

Phonics is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between the sounds of spoken language, and the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language. Successful decoding occurs when a student uses his or her knowledge of letter-sound relationships to accurately read a word. This section provides information about how to teach children to sound out words, and what to do if a child is having difficulty linking letters and sounds.