and Whole Language Learning
Balanced Approach to Beginning Reading
Association for the Education of Young Children
Children cannot learn to read
without an understanding of phonics. All children must know their ABCs and the
sounds that letters make in order to communicate verbally. The question in
early childhood programs is not whether to teach "phonics" or
"whole language learning," but how to teach phonics in
context--rather than in isolation--so that children make connections between
letters, sounds, and meaning.
Phonics should not be taught as a
separate "subject" with emphasis on drills and rote memorization. The
key is a balanced approach and attention to each child's individual needs. Many
children's understanding of phonics will arise from their interest, knowledge,
and ideas. Others will benefit from more formal instruction. There are many
opportunities to teach the sound a letter makes when children have reason to
know. For example, the first letter a child learns typically is the first
letter of her name.
worry that encouraging children to learn through experience and invent their
own spellings will not provide them with adequate language skills. But literacy
is not so much a skill as a complex activity that involves reading, writing and
oral language. Ideally, children should develop literacy through real life
settings as they read together with parents or other caring adults. Children
begin to make connections between printed words and their representations in
Adults should keep in mind that
children may learn to read at different paces during kindergarten and first
grade. This is true for all children, including those with special needs and
those from linguistically and culturally diverse backgrounds. If parents andteachers work together
and demonstrate mutual respect, children's learning will be reinforced at home
and in the classroom.
Parents Can Help
- Talk, read, and sing to infants--they learn from
everything they see and hear even in the first stages of life.
- Take your baby to the park, zoo, and the store with
you. Bring her attention to objects, signs, and people.
- Always make books a part of your baby's toy selection,
even if he enjoys handling books more than being read to. As your child
grows, point out pictures of objects and offer their names. Eventually,
your child will be able to name the pictures, too.
- Encourage associations between symbols and their
meaning--as they get closer to toddlerhood, children may begin to
recognize familiar signs for products and logos for cereal or fast food
- Help toddlers make the transition from baby talk to
adult language by repeating their words and expressions correctly without
- Let toddlers "read" their favorite picture
books by themselves while you remain close by to comment. Or, pause before
a familiar word as you read to your toddler, and let her fill in the
missing word. This works especially well with rhymes or repeated refrains.
- Provide magnetic and block letters to introduce a
toddler to the spelling of his name.
- Before you take your toddler on a new type of outing,
read about the events you are about to witness. Talk with your child about
the experience, and follow up with further reading to reinforce learning.
- Add new books to your childs collection, but keep reading old
favorites. Your preschooler may know them by heart now--this represents an
important step in learning about reading.
- Continue to take children shopping with you, and let
them help identify products with coupons. Let preschool children join in
as you follow a recipe.
- Take books on long trips with you to encourage reading
- Continue to read to your child, even if she has learned
to read already. Take turns reading pages of your favorite books.
- Encourage story writing by listening to the stories
- Play word games like Scrabble or Boggle with children
and introduce them to crossword puzzles.
Chapman, M.L. 1996. The development
of phonemic awareness in young children: Some insights from a case study of a first-grade writers. Young
Children 51 (2). Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Schickedanz, J.A. 1986. More than the ABCs: The early stages of
reading and writing. Washington, DC: NAEYC #204/$6.
1998. Raising a Reader, Raising a Writer: How Parents Can Help.
Washington, DC: NAEYC #530. For a free copy of this brochure, send SASE to
NAEYC, Box 530, 1509 16th St., NW, Washington, DC
Publication Release: July 26, 2007