Concepts, Strategies and Skills Needed to Become Effective Readers
Functions and Value of Print
Perhaps the most important concept that children need to develop
is what is frequently referred to as the functions of print.
When children understand this concept, they have begun to understand
that printed language is related to oral language, that print is a
form of communication, and that print and books are sources of
enjoyment and information (Brown, 1991; Heath, 1982; Schicken-
danz, 1978; Teale & Sulzby, 1989). Children who do not understand
the functions and value of reading are unlikely to become successful
Oral Language and Listening Skills
Oral language is the critical foundation upon which reading and
writing build. Glazer (1989), Strickland (1991), and Teale and
Sulzby (1989) have all discussed the critical
importance of oral language as it relates to beginning reading and
writing. Learning the meanings of thousands of words and developing
an understanding of the way words are ordered to make sense (syntax)
are extremely complex processes that take place in oral language
development and transfer to reading and writing. Cognitive activities,
such as understanding cause-and-effect relationships or chronological
order, that are established through listening and communicated through
speaking are the same cognitive processes used in reading.
All children who enter kindergarten have some foundation of oral
language skills that can serve as a foundation for their reading and
writing. Oral language skills can be expanded and further developed
through listening activities, especially the reading aloud of stories,
and eventually through reading experiences (Galda & Cullinan, 1991;
There is a strong, significant relationship between listening
comprehension and reading comprehension. Listening to stories is
an excellent vehicle for expanding oral language patterns, for
extending thinking skills, and for building vocabulary (Eller,
Pappas, & Brown, 1988; Ellery, 1989; Leung & Pikulski, 1990).
Understandings About Language
To grow as readers and writers, young children must develop other
understandings about language, often referred to as metalinguistic
awareness. They must, for example, develop a concept of what a word is,
both printed and spoken, and know how it is different from numbers, letters,
sounds, and sentences. They must learn that print is read from left to right
and from top to bottom (Downing, 1989; Yaden, 1989).
Learning Letter-Sound Associations
To grow as readers and writers, children must also develop an
understanding of what Adams (1990) refers to as the alphabetic principle.
When first introduced to print, children often think that the printed word
is a concrete representation of an object. For example, they expect cat to be
a longer word than mouse because cats are bigger and longer than mice
(Ferreiro & Teberosky, 1982; Schickendanz, 1989). Instead, they need
to develop the idea that spoken words are composed of identifiable
sounds and, further, the idea that letters of the alphabet represent
those sounds. In order to develop an understanding of the alphabetic
principle, they must become familiar with letter forms (Adams, 1990;
Barr, 1984; Schickendanz, 1989) and with the idea that spoken words
have identifiable sounds in them -- referred to as the concept of phonemic
awareness (Adams, 1990; Griffith & Olson, 1992; Lundberg, Frost,
& Peterson, 1988; Tunmer & Nesdale, 1985).
Importance of a Rich Literacy Environment
All of these understandings and skills need to develop in classrooms
that present a rich literacy environment, one filled with books,
posters, art, children's work, and so forth (Morrow, 1989).
Go on to Appropriate Literature for Emergent Readers
Back to How Young Children Become Readers and Writers
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