How Home & School Impact Emergent Literacy

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  • 0:01 Emergent Literacy
  • 1:20 Impact of Home on…
  • 2:52 Impact of School on…
  • 3:42 Impact of the Digital Age
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Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Emergent literacy skills are some of the most important things children learn at a very young age. How schools and families together handle this can influence the rest of a child's education. Explore this, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Emergent Literacy

Young children are amazing. They're like sponges, they just soak up everything around them. If we maintained that enthusiasm for learning throughout our lives, we'd all be geniuses. But, between roughly the ages of two and five, our brains really enter an ideal stage for learning. We're old enough to want to understand the world around us and young enough that there's not much in there yet. It's the perfect combination of curiosity and ignorance. One of the areas where this is extremely important is in emergent literacy, the first development of reading and writing skills. Emergent literacy generally encompasses the first awareness of vocabulary, letter-name knowledge, which is the familiarity with names and appearance of letters, and phonological awareness, or the familiarity with basic sounds in a language. Emergent literacy is one of the first academic disciplines we learn in our lives, and how well we learn these early literacy skills will generally define how successful the rest of our academic careers will be. These are some of the first things we learn and, therefore, some of the most important.

Impact of Home on Emergent Literacy

Emergent literacy is one of the most important stages of our intellectual development. So, where do we learn it? The majority of our emergent literacy skills come from the home. The home is our first source of education and so it's pretty important. A positive environment can increase emergent literacy, setting children up for a successful education, while a negative home environment can delay emergent literacy skills. So, how do we create a home that positively impacts emergent literacy? One of the biggest things is home reading, frequent communal reading within a family. Basically, this is when parents read to and with their children. Reading with children helps them learn from a young age to associate the concept of printed words with spoken sounds and meanings, which is one of the first emergent literacy skills youngsters learn. Studies have shown that home reading increases a child's familiarity with sounds in their language, the appearance and names of letters, and the concept of text, just by frequent contact with printed material. Beyond that, home reading also increases a child's vocabulary, since books often use words that are more academic and, therefore, less frequently used in daily communication. Research has shown, without exception, that the home is one of the most important sources of emergent literacy skills and that a positive learning environment at home can greatly help children develop full literacy once they start school.

Impact of School on Emergent Literacy

What we learn at home is important, but as anyone who's been through school can tell you, not everything we learn is learned at home. School is, obviously, an important part of educational development and this is true of developing emergent literacy skills as well. Children who are enrolled in preschool programs that teach emergent literacy skills may have an easier time learning full literacy because they are already familiar with an academic setting and the structure of formal education. However, preschool programs are rarely in and of themselves designed to teach emergent literacy. The most successful programs are those that integrate formal academic education with home reading and other types of parental education.

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