How Read Alouds Support Emergent Literacy

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  • 0:03 What Is Emergent Literacy?
  • 0:55 Love of Reading
  • 1:34 Vocabulary Development
  • 2:02 Background Knowledge
  • 2:32 Skill Building &…
  • 3:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

There are so many different reasons to read aloud to children of all ages. In this lesson, you will begin to understand how reading to younger children helps support their emergent literacy and put them on the path to being lifelong readers.

What Is Emergent Literacy?

Have you ever wondered what two-year-olds are doing when they flip through the pages of a board book, staring intently at each illustration? What about a four-year-old who scrawls seemingly meaningless strings of letters on a page, and then asks you to read them back to him or her? These behaviors are all part of emergent literacy, the phase during which children who cannot yet read and write are exploring what reading and writing are all about.

Jackie is a preschool teacher who thinks supporting children as they develop through emergent literacy is one of the most important aspects of her job. Jackie knows that having a print-rich environment, giving space for children to play with language, and teaching songs and rhymes are a few key strategies during emergent literacy. Yet nothing is as important to her as reading aloud to children. In this lesson, Jackie will discuss the significance of the read-aloud in supporting emergent literacy.

Love of Reading

Jackie reads to her young students whenever she can. She shares the books that she loves most: classics from her own childhood as well as more recently published works. As she reads, she lets her students express any feelings or ideas that come up. Often, children bring in books their parents have read to them, and Jackie shares these books with the class. This aspect of emergent literacy has to do with the development of a love for reading. By modeling an adult relationship to literacy connected with love, community, and emotion, teachers can show their youngest students that books are things to love, to get lost in. Few literary interactions are as full of love as the read-aloud.

Vocabulary Development

Jackie's students come from a diversity of homes with different language backgrounds and levels of access to educational resources. When Jackie reads aloud to her children, she stops to explain and talk about different and interesting words. She knows that frequent read-alouds help lower the vocabulary gap that may develop in the classroom as a form of social inequity. Teaching children words in natural contexts like picture books helps them develop strong vocabularies that serve them well as emergent readers and writers.

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