To a large extent, the development of early language and literacy skills in children has a strong effect on their future academic performance (Haak, Downer & Reeve, 2012). Consequently, it is important for preschool teachers to devote as much time as possible to learn the best strategies of training children during their early days in life.
Beyond any reasonable doubt, the development of language and literacy skills in small children must be taken seriously right from the beginning. The skills include the ability to discriminate the letters of the alphabetic as well as to understand the connection between letters and sounds and are important prerequisites for the academic success of the children later in life.
This paper discusses the impact of language abilities and deficiencies on the literacy development of learners at an early age. It also provides a brief explanation of how to support English language learners.
Impact of Language Abilities and Deficiencies on Literacy Development
Generally, early childhood learning environments are designed to meet the needs of young children during their formative years, and teachers are expected to teach important skills that will help later in life. According to Beauchat, Blamey, and Walpole (2009), a preschool education environment is quite dynamic and full of challenges that must be handled wisely by the teachers.
Usually, those who teach in preschool classrooms differ significantly from the teachers at elementary levels. This notwithstanding, preschool teachers have a responsibility to ensure that the children entrusted to their care able to develop language and literacy skills. Undoubtedly, the skills acquired by children at the stage in their development cycle form a strong foundation for their ability to read and write in the future.
While the language is a method used by people to communicate with others, literacy is the capability of an individual to read and to write. Debatably, the development of language and literacy skills often starts during the early stages of the life of any human being. Creating a good learning environment is thus vital if children are to develop useful language and literacy skills.
Children who are unable to listen and speak properly are known to suffer from language impairment while those with reading problems are regarded as having poor reading achievement. Deficiency is a term that is used to indicate the lack of what is considered as a necessity.
Whereas children with language abilities progress in life without facing many challenges, those with language disabilities and deficiencies experience literacy development problems, and their overall progress in learning is greatly hindered.
Some language deficiencies that children may suffer from include autism, loss of hearing, and injuries to the brain. Besides experiencing communication difficulties, children with learning disabilities have a difficult time understanding what they are told.
As demonstrated by the shared storybook reading the concept, teachers may use various strategies to help children understand how to read and communicate effectively (Beauchat, Blamey & Walpole, 2009). It is advisable for teachers to comment on a story as it is read to facilitate a smooth learning process for the children. Teachers may also make use of open-ended questions that are linked to a story as well as follow up questions to reinforce concepts.
Arguably, teachers do this to ensure that in the long run, children will be equipped with critical skills for expanding their explanations rather use short responses while communicating with others.
Failure to do so means that children will experience social challenges later in life, and this may affect their progression in various spheres of life. To improve the ability of children to comprehend issues as they read, teachers can ask questions before, during, and after reading a story.
As noted by Green, Peterson, and Lewis (2006), the early years in a person’s life are very critical in shaping his or her ability to read and write later in life. Although learning to read and write is long term and progressive, the initiation process is very important and helps in the formation of a strong foundation for a successful learning process.
Arguably, the ability of a child to grasp the important language and literacy skills during the early days in life may be used to determine his or her capability to successfully do many things later in life.
Generally, those involved in promoting early literacy development among small children should make every effort to read books for them frequently. Seemingly, this is a good strategy of ensuring that language and literacy skills are well developed in children in the early years. According to Neuman and Dickinson (2011), there are three important aspects of language development that relate to the ability of a child to learn how to read and write.
The first is the mastery of basic phonological processes that are related to rule-based sound production. The development of vocabulary and mastery of the rules underlying production and comprehension of syntax are the other two. Ostensibly, a deficiency in any of the three aspects of oral language is likely to negatively impact the ability of a child to learn how to read and write.
As a general principle, the type, timing, and extent of developmental disruptions that affect the acquisition of oral language skills are mainly reflected in difficulties experienced by children while learning how to read and write (Neuman & Dickinson, 2011).
Whereas mild disruptions in language and literacy development may have modest effects on reading ability of children as they mature, major disruptions in the development of language and literacy skills limit the potential for a child to learn how to read and write.
Ordinarily, English language learners are people who are proficient in the first language and have a desire to develop skills needed to communicate using the English language. To support English language learners, one of the greatest responsibility for any teacher is to create an enabling environment.
Unlike other students, English language learners may require extra support from teachers if they are to learn well and excel. Teachers are also expected to spend plenty of time planning to ensure that lesson delivery for English language learners succeeds.
As discussed in this paper, language and literacy skills are nurtured during the early days of a child’s development cycle. Language disabilities and deficiency are responsible for the poor development of literacy skills in children. For better results to be realized, it is imperative for teachers to understand and apply the best strategies in helping children to develop as expected.
Success also depends on the determination of teachers to learn the skills necessary for them to be effective in dispensing their duties as they assist small children in developing their ability to read and write properly. As pointed out, however, language and literacy development may be seriously hampered by language disabilities and deficiencies.
Beauchat, K. A., Blamey, K. L. & Walpole, S. (2009). Building Preschool Children’s Language and Literacy One Storybook at a Time. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 26 – 39.
Green, S. D., Peterson, R. & Lewis, J. R. (2006). Language and Literacy Promotion in Early Childhood Settings: A Survey of Center-Based Practices. Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v8n1/green.html
Haak, J., Downer, J. & Reeve, R. (2012). Home Literacy Exposure and Early Language and Literacy Skills in Children Who Struggle With Behavior and Attention Problems. Early Education and Development, 23, 728 – 747.
Neuman, S. B. & Dickinson, D. K. (2011). Handbook of Early Literacy Research. New York, NY: Guilford Press.