The definition of literacy, as per the Concise Oxford American Dictionary, is "the ability to read and write." True literacy, though, encompasses so much more.
Before children learn to read or write, they first need to listen to what people are saying and respond in an appropriate manner. The more they are spoken with and read to, the greater the chances that they will grow into active listeners, speakers, and storytellers. THEN they can become the strong independent readers and writers we so want them to be.
True literacy to me is more about communication than anything else. The more that we, as parents and teachers, listen and respond to children, the more likely it is that they will follow our lead. Sometimes, we are so busy that we don't REALLY listen to what our children are telling us. We've all been there.
So, here are a few ways we can listen for literacy:
- When our children ask us questions we don't know the answers to, we not only seek out the answers together, but ask more questions too.
- When our children get excited about a certain subject, we encourage them to learn more about it in a variety of ways. We can help them seek out books, web sites, and real world activities to inspire them to love learning.
- We encourage our children to tell real or imaginary stories, and write them down, too.
- We respect the fact that art comes in many forms, and help our children to discover their "inner artist." Art does, after all, tell a story. And so does music...
- We listen to the many ways our child tries to communicate with us, even if it's not with words.
- Education Week's Oral-Language Skills for English-Learners Focus of Researchers (found through The Reading Tub blog).