Literacy development is an incredibly important part of early childhood education, and it begins long before a child enters elementary school. Children learn about literacy from their caretakers and their environments. The article "Remembering Critical Lessons in Early Literacy Research: A Transactional Perspective" (Whitmore, Martens, Goodman, & Owocki) describes literacy as "individual, social...[and] a cultural practice." Each child creates his or her own meanings throughout social interactions, and all of this is is supported by the child's cultural and family background. Children learn about literacy from birth by being read and sung to, looking at pictures, watching others read and write, making their own marks, playing, and so much more. All of these experiences lead to a child's understanding of letters and words, which eventually add up to being an independent reader and writer.
During this exciting time in a child's life, families need to be aware of the role they play in their child's literacy development. Support children by reading to them, asking them to read or retell a story to you, singing with them, and encouraging children to tell, write, and draw their own stories or thoughts. Point out letters and writing in the world around you, such as on street signs, in the grocery store, and on household items, as well as in books. Children are constantly watching their caregivers, so model your own literacy habits; let your child see you reading and writing, and talk about these things with them.
One of the most important things for families to know about literacy is that it is happening now! As stated in "Remembering Critical Literacies," "Children do not wait for formal instruction before they read and write" (Whitmore, Martens, Goodman, & Owocki, pg. 299). Take advantage of every opportunity to talk about literacy and help your child develop an early love of reading and writing!