Literacy, in itself is a very vast term to define. But as a matter of fact it starts even before the child starts his formal schooling. Reading and writing are considered to be the two most vital components for decoding and encoding print and also interpreting and communicating the meanings with written language. Young children begin to follow the reading and writing process well before starting their schooling. However, their activities would be raw and not in a defined shape but one can easily glimpse the literacy interest through them. For example, when the parents read a story to a child, he/she pretends to act or mimicry the same in one or the other form which shows the interest in reading. The child learns to hold the book, understands the particular text and relates the same with the pictures too. This is the first step towards literacy process. Reading and writing is introduced to the child in a variety of ways through play, work, and home atmosphere or community activities. For example, writing a letter by parents to a relative, reading bible in the church, listening to a story or a rhyme etc are ways which make connections with the reading and writing in children.
Bridges to Literacy -
Development of literacy starts in early childhood education with some symbolic activities like pretend play, talking, scribbling, pretend writing and reading. Children invent their own symbols or they are acquired through the culture. They represent their experience, feelings and ideas through the symbols which include body gestures, words, clay models, scribbles or marks on paper and so forth. Children also create their own imaginary world through these symbols. This is clearly visible when they fabricate stories; engage in pretend play or draw some image on paper etc. in this way, these symbols, words, talks, drawings and plays become the “bridges to Literacy”.
Play: making connections with writing and reading -
Play is the first activity where the foundation of reading and writing is built and which also consumes maximum of a child’s time and energy. In their playtime, children make important connections between their personal and the outer world. They also find ways to make the culturally valued activities as a part of their play. When children are engaged in reading and writing associated play, they are trying to make sense and use of literacy before they actually learn to read and write. At the same time they learn to acquire a vast range of knowledge and skills which are important for writing and reading in school years. In fact this constitute early literacy habits and helpful to make them as potential readers and writers.
Play serves as two important links to develop the literacy. First, Pretend Play, as a symbolic activity, allows them to improve their abilities to use these symbols and represent their feelings and experiences and to construct their own imaginary worlds. Second, Play is considered as an approach to experience various meaningful roles of people can that read and write. Telling and enacting stories leads them to participate in drawing the same figuratively, which is the initial stage of learning to read and write. As they grow. These stories become elaborate, complex and abstract. Their pretend play also relies upon ideas, imagination and language. Children discuss the setting, character or the roles, and the plots to enact in the pretend play. They create their possible world to express and communicate their meanings. In later stages, children start playing with the writing materials like pencils, crayons, markers, books and copies etc. this is the stage when a child is ready for the reading/writing process for his later years.
In play, focus is on exploring rather than accomplishing something. They have a freedom to discover or invent the possibilities or the new ideas of doing various things, new ways of thinking which in turn lead them to be problem solvers, better thinkers, and better decision makers.
Literacy and relationships -
Early literacy practices and plays not only lead them to learn to read and write but it is also a very strong social process wherein a child develops strong socio-emotional relationships with siblings, peers, parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and other community members. These all people play critical roles in child’s life in shaping up their personalities on personal and literary fronts, as they bring their own experiences, attitudes and ideas along with them and in turn they influence the lives of children, both, in conscious or unconscious manner.
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Beginning of Literacy in Early Childhood