Language comes before literacy.
A child must have a strong foundation of language before they can start to read. Language is a result of knowledge from life experiences. Every time you go to a park and talk about the squirrels, take a trip to the zoo, or visit the children’s museum, children are finding new language and making them more ready to read.
Here’s an example.
A child learning how to read is asked to guess a word based on clues from the picture. The picture is a girl with her hair in a bun wearing a tutu and the word being asked to guess is “ballet”. The child has never seen a tutu or heard of ballet. The child has no life experience to guess the word. The child becomes frustrated and feels defeated. Meanwhile, another child in the group is taking a dance class and says “DANCER!” or maybe even “BALLET”. The child with the life experience is praised for the right answer and the first child still has no context for the image or the task. How would that make you feel?
Being ready to read is a global conversation. The International Literacy Association published a document in 2017 that said knowledge building is the base of literacy and children do better by building life experiences than they do academic rigor during the early years of school.
Explorations V Children’s Museum is the hub of a new Early Learning Alliance that is getting kids across Central Florida #ReadytoRead. Initiatives both inside and outside of the Museum are working on intentional language gains with special focus on reaching kids in vulnerable situations.
Another key element is to amplify the work being done in neighboring communities. This is not a Polk County problem, this is a global problem. What works here may not work somewhere else. We must be willing to share outcomes (both good and bad) to continue working towards progress.