About Early Family Literacy

Early Literacy describes the period between birth and age 8 during which young children are building language skills that will assist them in reading and writing throughout their lives. This period includes the emergent phase before children are yet readers and writers and at the very early stage of reading and writing comprehension when children are starting to decode words and produce some of their first writing. It is a remarkably fertile period for childrens’ learning; they go from no words at all to a vocabulary of around 2,000 words by age 5. That’s a huge leap in language growth.

This is a critical learning period when children should be exposed to reading aloud, singing, exposure to the world around them, and lots of talking with them to identify in words what they are doing, seeing, and experiencing. Children also learn how to decode text during this formative period when they learn how the sounds of language are represented by letters.

Children’s early experience of reading and learning language is affected by family literacy. Some adults have difficulty with literacy themselves; perhaps because they missed critical instruction, have an undiagnosed learning disability, are learning a new language and are not yet reading it, were raised in a home with little text or experienced other circumstances that didn’t support learning to read or write well. This means that some families have adults that can benefit from literacy instruction, too.

Early family literacy is thus bound up with overall family literacy is intended to support the literacy of each of the family members, including young children. This support is multi-generational by definition and means that adults and children are learning at the same time. While adults have different needs to children’s needs, as the child is working on decoding new words the adult can also be working on comprehending what the child has read, so that by providing the adult with skills to work on with their children, they can both benefit. Some family literacy programs have activities just for adults during which other activities are provided to the children after which they are brought back together for combined activities to strengthen the skills they have learned.

Some Early family literacy events are provided through a child’s school. These events can assist families to help their children improve their ability to process and produce texts. These events typically involve fun activities where adults learn both the strategies and activities that will help their children learn to read well. Also, many libraries offer story times and other children’s activities that adults can learn from as well.

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