What are Emergent Literacy Skills?

These are skills and actions exhibited by preschool kids and even infants that are purely based on their contact with words and letters early on in life. To understand emergent literacy skills, knowing about emergent literacy is crucial.

Emergent literacy starts long before a kid’s official lessons in school and continues through the preschool year. From the day they’re born, kids are already in the process of learning a language and becoming literate. As they grow and develop, their language skills and speech become more and more complex. They become skilled at understanding and using language to express their feelings and thoughts and communicate with others. 

During their early speech and language development, kids learn skills vital to developing literacy (writing and reading). They observe and interact with print (such as magazines, books, and grocery lists) in everyday situations (like at home, at a daycare center, in preschool, etc.) prior to starting elementary school. Parents can notice their kids’ growing admiration and enjoyment of print as they begin to identify words that rhyme, point out street signs and logos, draw with crayons, and name a few letters of the alphabet. Slowly, kids start combining what they know about listening and speaking with what they know about print, thus becoming all set to learn to read and write.

Emergent literacy skills the kids gain through their listening and talking during the preschool period prepare them to learn to read and write during their early elementary school years. As a result, kids who start school with weaker verbal abilities are more prone to experience problems learning literacy skills than their counterparts who have more potent verbal abilities. A spoken language skill strongly linked to early reading and writing is phonological awareness. This refers to the recognition that separate speech sounds create words. For instance, the word ‘dog’ is made of three sounds, namely d, aw, g. There are various oral language activities that display kids’ natural development of phonological awareness, including

  •         isolating sounds or developing basic phonemic awareness, such as learning that ‘fr’ is the first unit of sound in ‘frame,’ ‘friend,’ and ‘freeze’ or ‘f’ is the first sound in ‘fish.’
  •         rhyming, like ‘cat-mat-hat’
  •         alliteration, such as ‘picture perfect,’ ‘quick question,’ ‘rocky road,’ or ‘money matters.’

As they get involved in sound play, the kids finally learn to divide words into their separate sounds and map them onto printed letters, which lets them start learning to read and write. Though young kids don’t relate all letters to their specific sounds, they can note acceptable phonemes within reading and writing. For instance, ‘fr’ is an acceptable phoneme, while ‘tsw’ isn’t, as there’s no word in English that combines those letters to make a single sound. 

Thus, emergent literacy skills include the kids’ knowledge of acceptable phonemes, which boosts their phoneme awareness. This comprehension is extremely vital when they enter school and begin to be trained in reading. It has been observed that kids who perform well on sound awareness tasks become successful writers and readers, while those struggling with these tasks often don’t.

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