Each year, increasing attention is being paid to early literacy. Early childhood professionals have long recognized the importance of language and literacy in preparing children to succeed in school. But what should be included in preschool literacy instruction?
What is Effective Preschool Literacy Instruction?
This is an introductory post to a four-part series about the “big four” of preschool literacy instruction.
Effective preschool literacy instruction is more than teaching your preschooler letter names and sounds. It’s so much more in-depth than that!
Follow along in this four-part series about all the most important components of teaching early literacy.
What do We Know About Preschool Literacy Instruction?
- Literacy development is highly correlated with school achievement.
- All of the domains of a child’s development —physical, social-emotional, cognitive, language and literacy—are interrelated and interdependent.
- A child who has limited experiences with language and literacy is more likely to have difficulty learning to read.
- Key early literacy predictors of reading and school success include oral language, print awareness, alphabetic principle, and phonological awareness.
- Well-conceived objectives for learning with specific child outcomes help establish a purpose and a shared vision for early literacy education.
- Increased demands for program accountability are often heavily focused on assessments of children’s early literacy development.
- Teachers are required to implement today’s more challenging early literacy curriculum.
What are the “big four” of preschool literacy instruction?
Whether working from a commercial program, creating a program of your own, or simply doing literacy activities with your children at home, this four-part series will inform you as to the four major components of pre-reading that every preschool-aged child needs in preparation for formal reading instruction.
This falls true for both phonics based and whole language based programs.
The four components of effective preschool literacy instruction are:
oral language development
There are many smaller skill sets that fall under these umbrella skills, and all of them have an effect on how easily a child learns to read. Most likely, you are already doing a ton of activities that fall within these four components. This series will help you gain a more in-depth understanding of how to prepare your preschooler for learning to read.
Why are the “big four” important to preschool literacy institution?
Each component is specifically related to reading instruction. Each component has a direct impact on reading success and should absolutely be a part of any well-designed preschool literacy program. These four components of preschool literacy instruction were developed by educational experts after decades and decades of research in teaching children to read.
While there are always new methods and trends being introduced in education, there are four things about early literacy that stay the same. Each preschooler needs a firm background in print awareness, oral language development, the alphabetic principle, and phonological awareness.
Without any one of these components, your preschool literacy instruction is incomplete.
What happens if my preschooler doesn’t develop in one of these skill areas?
Lacking skill in a single component is likely to cause difficulty in a child learning to read. Reading will be cumbersome and laborious, and frankly, no fun.
How can the “big four” be developed?
There are many ways parents and caregivers can help their preschoolers develop skills in early literacy. Each post will cite the following in detail:
- how to teach the component
- the reasoning behind the inclusion of the component
- examples of what the components look like in action
- engaging activities to develop the component
- additional resources
- a list of picture books that help develop the component
- what to do if you’re concerned
This series is designed to help you, the preschool teacher or parent, find preschool literacy instruction more accessible and easier. It is loaded with all the tools you need for effective preschool literacy instruction.
Looking for some books to help develop the “big four”?
As an early childhood educator myself, these are some of the books I rely on the most.
But each component can be built and strengthened by reading to your child or students, too! So each post will also feature a list of picture books that support each component. These books have been carefully and thoughtfully selected based on my knowledge and expertise in early literacy, as well as my experience as an educator.
How can you extend your knowledge of the “big four”?
The above recommended books are some books about preschool literacy instruction that are chock-full of all the most important information. However, each post will also have references specific to the targeted component so that you may continue your reading. These references will include other articles written by experts in early childhood education, in addition to resource books that specifically target each component.
Pre-Reading Skills Have a Long-Lasting Effects
Learning to read and write is an ongoing process from infancy. (You can read more about that here.)
Contrary to popular belief, it does not suddenly begin in kindergarten. From the earliest years, everything that adults do to support children’s language and literacy is critical. From the conversations we have with children to reading books together and learning to write our names.
Here is some evidence:
- Language and literacy develop simultaneously and one influences the other. What children learn from listening and talking contributes to their ability to read and write and vice versa.
- For example, young children’s phonological awareness is an important indicator of their potential success in learning to decode print. Early vocabulary development is a predictor of success in reading comprehension. Both phonological awareness and vocabulary development begin early with participation in the “big four” of preschool literacy instruction.
- Children who fall behind in the early years before formal schooling are less likely to be successful beginning readers.
- This achievement gap is likely to persist throughout elementary school and may never close.
- Responsive adults have a special role in supporting children’s ongoing, self-generated learning.
- Instructional support that relies on the accumulation of isolated skills is not sufficient. Children must be able to apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful situations.
Learn More About Preschool Literacy Instruction
Here are some additional resources in learning about effective and comprehensive preschool literacy instruction. Just click on the list of titles below.
The “Big Four” of Preschool Literacy Instruction: An Introduction (You’re already here).
Looking for Preschool Literacy Lesson Plans?
The Preschool Literacy Lesson Plans Bundle by Stay At Home Educator includes each of the “big four” components in teaching preschoolers to read. Learn more about it by clicking the link below or clicking the image.
Find Even More Resources Regarding Preschool Literacy Instruction
Sources for this article:
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.