It is no secret that literacy is an important aspect of early childhood development, but at what age should children be introduced to reading and writing? Much of society, even early childhood teachers, takes a Maturations approach to literacy. This results in a potentially dangerous lack of cognitive development, which can overall affect the child’s comprehension negatively. There is a plethora of information and research that challenges the Maturations theory in regards to literacy development in early childhood. In “Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally
Appropriate Practices for Young Children,” it states that “researchers found that three-year-old children’s knowledge of nursery rhymes specifically related to their more abstract phonological knowledge later on. ” There should not be an age restriction or recommendation at which children should be introduced to literacy. From the time a child is born (and debatable before) they are working towards language acquisition; from “babbling” as a baby to mimicking words they hear as a toddler, they are ultimately working towards the same goal, the ability to communicate effectively.
The introduction of literacy into the child’s life will assist in the child in drawing phonemic relationships quicker resulting in a stronger literary knowledge that can be used to strengthen other aspects of the child’s knowledge acquisition. The acquisition of literacy not only strengthens the child’s understanding of language and grammar, but will aid the child in comprehension of other subjects such as history, or even math and science. The most important thing about literacy being introduced at the younger ages is to make sure not to stray outside of the child’s comprehension of the outside world.
Not every child has the luxury of being introduced to language and literacy properly, and at an early age. For example, children of low-income households may not be exposed to proper literacy outside, or possibly even inside the classroom. Low- income communities typically attract less experienced teachers for early childhood development, teachers who have not been properly coached on good language and literacy practices. In a study done by Susan B.
Neumann and Linda Cunningham, 291 teachers were divided into three groups in which the first group received course ark to improve language and literacy practices within the classroom, the second group received the same course work plus individualized coaching, and the third group being the control group. The study concluded that the teachers who received the 3-hour college coursework and individualized coaching yielded the greatest results with using techniques and practices to help early childhood students with language acquisition and literacy.
The study was conducted in four cities across greater Michigan and included a majority of Caucasian teachers. With the correct individualized coaching in areas where early childhood education is less than adequate in literacy development, teachers can improve their strategies for language acquisition and thus resulting in a better overall comprehension in students. Literacy development is achieved at different rates, especially in a group of students with non-native and diverse backgrounds.
This can make teaching a classroom difficult. Minority students have the dual task of not only learning to communicate in the language of the majority (which is usually acquired as a second language) but learning the grammar rules that go along with learning a new language. Due to the differences in pronunciation and the different sounds that are reduced across language, minority students’ language acquisition may be slowed. This can be seriously harmful for the literacy development in second-language learners.
A study was conducted in The Netherlands in which the literacy progress was measured in over 2,000 students, with almost half being a part of a minority group. As hypothesized by the researchers Loud Evergreen and Anne Vermeer, the non-native students overall scored less on the literacy test than the native speakers of the same grade. Even though the students are in the same grade, they are not necessarily in the same age group. The average ages of the non-native students were higher than that of the native speaking students.