Monday, September 8, 2014

All Aboard! RES Literacy Train #RESVT

Written By Suzanne Self
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It could be a car, maybe a truck, perhaps a boat, possibly a plane…

This week the RES PRESCHOOL LITERACY TRAIN chugged into our classroom block area carrying 26 passengers dressed with warm, cozy hats, scarves and individual LETTER jackets! After greeting travelers, scholars put their imaginations to WORK and transformed the wooden boxcars into an array of wooden vehicles. Scholars also practiced one to one correspondence counting skills as they placed passengers into vacant seats (holes drilled into wooden blocks) as travelers boarded cars, planes, boats, submarines, fire trucks and trains prior to departing to various destinations! Passports and proper identification are not mandated to board vehicles, LETTER jackets identify individual passengers!   

Exposure to foundational reading skills varies for young children and limited experiences can place children at a disadvantage before they even step foot into a preschool classroom.  Hart and Risley (2003) examined language development in young children and the effects of home experiences/settings on children’s development. They found that while children from diverse backgrounds typically develop language skills around the same age, the subsequent rate of vocabulary growth is strongly influenced by how much parents talk to their children. By age three, a child could have heard 32 million words fewer than a classmate (Hart and Risley 2003). This summer the Academy of Pediatrics’ (Health Day 2014, Rich 2014) acknowledged important brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life and reading to children from birth enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills and future literacy competency. This acknowledgment is key to the future dispensing of early literacy information at a baby’s well visit and will impact infant’s cognitive development. As early educators, we hope this new mindset will alter preschooler’s literacy dispositions as well. We continuously witness young learners approach literacy activities in the classroom by saying, “I can’t read!”  Perhaps a child’s uncertain approach to literacy has been fostered by the past belief that children under the age of three are too young to partake in literacy activities. With great optimism, we predict the recent spotlight on early literacy will transform young literacy dispositions and future child settings will echo with the words, “I can read!”  

    Steven Pinker’s (1997) findings on language acquisition states that “Young Children are wired for sound (talking), but print (reading and writing) is an optional accessory that must be bolted on painstakingly” and defines why over the course of this school year we plan to:
  • Inform Families and Colleagues of our Literacy Curriculum
  • Provide a Rich and Organized Literacy Environment
  • Recognize Individual Student’s Literacy Developmental Stage and Provide Specific Instruction and Monitor Progress
  • Immerse Young Learners in Developmentally Appropriate Literacy activities through PLAY.
Newly acquired vocabulary (teacher and student initiated) will be highlighted in information sent home and posted on the classroom bulletin board labeled, LEARNING… NEW WORDS… BIG IDEAS… The bulletin board will act as a LEARNING WEB to document literacy learning and seasonal themes throughout the year.  Please be sure to stop to view our growth!
In closing, We will refer once again to Pinker’s findings on language acquisition, Children are wired for sound, but print is an optional accessory that must be bolted on painstakingly” (Pinker 1997). The act of reading is complex, however Pinker’s word painstakingly suggests something that includes discomfort and could discourage rather encourage a life-long love of literature and learning. Our hope is to change the adjective “painstakingly” to a two-word, child-centered description, carefully and playfully, to reflect our belief that learning should be engaging and joyful and in the words of David Elkind “in the end, a childhood is the most basic human right of children” (Elkind 1990).

Happy Reading,
Suzanne and Elizabeth

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