Most educators understand that early literacy involves a strong relationship between reading and writing. What may get overlooked is the relationship of oral language to reading and writing. Both written and oral language serve essential purposes and contribute to a child’s overall literacy.
As we understand how critical it is for children to be reading proficiently by third grade, we must be sure that research-based practices used in the classroom address all aspects of literacy, including written and oral communication. Accordingly, what early literacy instruction should children receive?
Three prominent professors of education and literacy, Kathleen A. Roskos, Ph.D., James F. Christie, Ph.D., and Donald J. Richgels, Ph.D. answer this question in their article “The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction.” In their research, they state that “Children’s early reading and writing…is embedded in a larger developing system of oral communication” which includes listening and speaking (Roskos, Christie & Richgels, 2003, p. 2).
They identify three content categories that must be addressed in early literacy: oral language comprehension, phonological awareness, and print knowledge.
This article may prove useful to educators as the researchers explain how to embed written and oral instruction in daily activities that benefit the students. The authors identified eight essential early literacy teaching strategies for young children:
- Rich teacher talk
- Storybook reading
- Phonological awareness activities
- Alphabet activities
- Support for emergent reading
- Shared book experience
- Support for emergent writing
- Integrated, content-focused activities
For example, the article explains how playing "restaurant" can involve emergent writing and reading (“reading” a menu, even in a picture format, and “writing” a dinner order). Children can even learn the basics of narrative story-telling with this imaginary world when little Johnny orders a chocolate milkshake but only strawberry is available. Roskos, Christie, and Richgels also share examples of how to include rich teacher talk and storybook reading in instruction.
Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction (2003), along with the Get Georgia Reading Campaign and Georgia’s L4 initiative, all emphasize the same message: getting children reading proficiently must begin early. Next steps for educators include acting consistently and carefully on instructional practice. What Works Clearinghouse’s Special Features offers evidence-based strategies, programs and practices to reach a range of early learning skills.
If children become curious and excited about learning, with continued targeted, research-based instructional practices, these children will acquire the literacy skills they need to successfully navigate their future.
Follow the GaDOE Literacy Blog for more research and information on engaging students in literacy.
Roskos, K. A., Christie, J. F., and Richgels, D. J. (2003). The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction. National Association for the Education of Young Children. Reprints online at https://www.bowdoin.edu/childrens-center/pdf/ParentResources_LiteracyEssentials.pdf.