Children learn to speak by listening to and repeating sounds that they hear and connecting them to meanings. They don’t consciously connect the individual sounds they hear (phonemes) when hearing spoken language, but these word sounds are key to learning written language.
As children learn to connect word sounds with written language, they are developing important English literacy skills that will set them up for future success in their schooling and later in life.
Early English literacy development plays an important part in enabling key learning experiences that will be valuable to children throughout their life. It can directly impact things like academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and improved productivity as an adult.
Some of the most important outcomes of effective literacy development from a young age include:
Foundational literacy learning is crucial to overall literacy outcome for students. Introducing new concepts and learning activities to primary school classrooms and supporting their learning at home is the most beneficial way for children to learn to read.
Supporting their learning journey is essential for building their confidence in literacy skills and making learning fun and engaging. If children believe they can’t read, then they won’t read. This can negatively impact their development in literacy as well as other key areas.
As children build confidence in their literacy, they can become more confident in their general approach to learning. Reading and writing is also integral to other areas of learning, as it is the main medium in which their lessons will be taught.
Every child will learn at a different pace, so you need to set realistic expectations around their progress. There is a generally linear approach to literacy, with stages of reading, writing, and spelling, but if children are struggling to engage in certain areas or approaches, don’t force it. Allow them time and space to focus on other areas and come back to it later.
Learning a new skill is all about practice. As children finish one book, they might not immediately want to start another, particularly if they were deeply engaged in the story. Let them re-read it as many times as they like so they can practise and improve. A key part of this is encouraging attempts and making it safe to fail. You can do so by getting them to read it out loud on multiple occasions. Repeated oral reading has been shown to make students better readers.
Making reading an enjoyable part of their day is essential to supporting their development. If children don’t have engaging learning materials or see reading as a boring activity, they will struggle to make progress. Pictures, clear and simple activities, compelling stories — it’s all part of making learning to read fun.
You can also involve other mediums to improve comprehension and engagement. Listen to audio books or draw pictures about the stories they have just read. Reinforcing their learning with fun activities will help to build positive associations with literacy.
Phonemic awareness is key to children connecting what they hear to what they read on the page. By making phonemic learning an aspect of their lessons, you can increase comprehension and help them reach language development milestones.
Use teaching aides that take the phonic approach, build activities around rhyming and matching letters to sounds, and get children to work together to sound out certain letters and word pairs.
There are many tools and resources that you can use in the classroom to support early readers. The most important thing is to start with foundational knowledge and give children time to learn in a sequential way. Jumping ahead or skipping things can hinder their learning in the long run.
Beginner resources like the below are the most beneficial ‘learn to read’ resources for teachers:
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