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The Foundation for Learning and Success Throughout Life

Literacy is an essential learned skill that with the support from an early age, enables people to read for knowledge, write logically, think critically, and be able to communicate and understand communication through speaking, listening, and viewing. Literacy enables one to solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function in school, on the job, within the family, and in society.

How Does Literacy Develop from an Early Age?

Human brains are naturally wired to speak but they are not naturally wired to read and write. As learning takes place, oral language, reading and writing develop simultaneously from early infancy and continue to develop throughout their life.

Children follow developmental stages which aid their literacy skills. "Most children follow a typical progression through a series of developmental milestones. However, the age at which they reach these stages varies from child to child depending on gender, language experience, socioeconomic status and to a lesser degree, birth order.

As children grow, each one's development varies based on previous experiences and they bring their own unique set of skills that they contribute to how the child understands language and literacy. Parents and caregivers play an important role in planting the seeds for language and literacy development, as they have a great influence on the children's interactions and everyday experiences. Parents' attitudes toward reading and writing and their views about education play a key role in children's literacy development.

During infancy children acquire a number of skills that will develop into verbal communication. They are biologically prepared to pay attention to the sounds of speech and to process language by breaking it down into phrases, words, and sounds. Infants are also developing the skills needed to produce language. They vocalize by initially crying, then cooing, then babbling, and they also learn to take turns when "speaking." Non-verbal communication such as joint attention also develops during this time. During the toddler period children begin to understand and produce speech to interact with others and to express their want and needs. They begin to use holophrastic speech in which they use single words to represent different meanings.

Next is the telegraphic speech stage which contains short two-word sentences. Toddlers demonstrate their understanding of their growing language by comprehending and acting on words and phrases. The toddlers' verbal and non-verbal vocabulary greatly increases during the telegraphic speech stage where they typically understand more words than they are able to produce. Preschoolers that are between the ages of three and four begin to produce grammatically correct speech such as by using "s" to indicate plural, and "ed" to indicate past tense. It is during this time that early literacy skills begin to develop and then continue to progress in parallel with language skills. It is also during this time that literacy development is determined heavily by the physical and social environment provided by close adults.

Preschoolers that are between the ages of four and six participate in organized activities or lessons and may be enrolled in school. During this time, children's vocabulary increases at a rate of 800 to 1000 words per year. Preschoolers can comprehend and produce thousands of words. They begin to produce more complex and skillful language, and their phonological awareness increases. Also, preschoolers have a greater understanding of written language and they have good print awareness skills, such as letter orientation.

Young children are continually learning new skills that enhance their literacy through individual, parent or caregiver influence and through developmental milestones. These ongoing experiences of acquiring literacy skills will lead to producing positive functional personal and societal results.

What Impact Do Individuals' Literacy Levels Have on Them and on Society?

Stronger literacy skills facilitate higher levels of educational achievement, which leads to increased earnings and higher social status.

Differences in literacy skill are associated with large differences in employability, wage rates, income, and reliance on social support. Almost half of Canadian adults lack the literacy skills needed to succeed in Canada today.
Benefits of literacy in the workplace include increased profitability through improved customer service, better employee morale, engagement and retention, a culture of learning and a healthier workforce, reduced EI premiums and turnover costs, and a highly skilled workforce from which to choose.

The impact of low literacy in adults can also be related to poor health and overuse or inappropriate use of Canadian health care facilities, and various medical services such as the Emergency service at the hospital are used more frequently.
Low literacy has been linked to the length of recovery time due to illness, the cost of treatment, and the age at death.

Adults with higher literacy levels tend to be healthier, work more, and less reliant on social services.

Increased literacy levels among adults and parents mean more reading and literacy-building activities that can take place in the home, therefore preparing our next generation for success on an individual, scholastic, and workforce level.

What Measures Can Be Taken Individually and Within the Community to Promote Literacy Among Children in Order to Ensure a Successful Path Toward Their Future?

Television can be used as a tool. After the child watches a show, talking about it and asking questions reinforces media literacy skills, a medium that is ever-present in our lives today.

When outside of the home, children can read signs, posters, and flyers. This teaches them reading skills and about being an active and engaged consumer.

Audio books may be played while the child reads along with the written book, while in a car.

Playing board games that involve making words or reading instructions on cards highlight to the child that literacy skills connect with everyday activities and that reading is fun.

By spending a minimum of 15 minutes a day engaged in a literacy activity as a family, Canadians have the ability to make positive changes both in their lives and in the future potential of their children. Children aged two to three who are read to several times a day do substantially better in kindergarten at the age of four and five than those who are read to only a few times a week or less. While reading, pause to ask them questions about what they predict will happen next or have them summarize what had happened so far. This will reinforce their critical thinking skills. Reading material of the child's interest such as comic books or magazines will introduce new vocabulary, sentence structure, and they will engage their brains with new ideas and information.

When making a shopping list the child can write out the items needed to buy and at the store the child can count out the money to make the purchase. On a community level children's schools play a large role in developing literacy skills. Teachers should take interest in reading the children's files and talk to their parents to identify any potential literacy issues. For example, are there any delays of speech noted? Is the child receiving speech therapy? Is English the child's primary language?

Asking such questions is significant as oral language is a foundational skill for reading and writing.
Teachers should be familiar with the four different stages of reading development, 1) emergent, 2) early, 3) transitional, and 4) fluent readers, when developing learning materials for specific types of readers. These stages are based on the students' experience and not their age level or grade.

Examples of other community resources which children can build their literacy skills from include:
public libraries literacy organizations private tutors volunteers

No matter how children develop their literacy skills, they must be kept up and maintained, as literacy skills are like muscles - they are maintained and strengthened through regular use. Children's achievements in school improves with increased parent involvement in education and children have a better chance of becoming fully literate and successful adults if reading is encouraged in the home.

Traditional Learning

Versus Natural Learning

Traditional Learning
Initially, children's literacy skills begin developing at home from their families and then most children enter the traditional school system where literacy and learning continues.

In schools the traditional approach to learning is teachercentered and the students have to listen.

The curriculum is set and what is given is what has to be implemented. There is also a timeframe that needs to be followed.
The setting is structured which may help children to achieve goals and boost their self confidence in return. Through this structure, children may also learn discipline from early on because the teacher is the authority and the children have to follow them.

A traditional way of learning may also better prepare children for life.

Traditional schools prepare you for lifelong education. You wont have a hard time adjusting to life and higher education. Since most colleges and graduate schools are taught traditionally, you will be better prepared if youve already been trained in traditional methods(Infantado, 2012).

Natural Learning

Natural learning" is an educational method which argues that children learn best when confronted with real-life experiences. The environment where natural learning takes place is typically outside of a traditionally school setting, such as out of a home through homeschooling or away on apprenticeship. This learning is based on curiosity and tasks where participants share knowledge to reach a goal. Natural learning is viewed as assuming responsibility, asking questions, seeking answers, and analyzing information, which leads to more questions. The answer is never complete because there are always broader possibilities and/or better ways.

Learning is customized to project needs and personality of the participants.

Knowledge is gained by tapping information sources through research, trial and error, networking, and intuitive forces. The ability to tap these resources and make sound judgments is the key to achieving the desired goal.
As one goal is achieved, another is established. Each goal requires new knowledge and skills, and this is achieved through the ability to acquire knowledge from many sources. (Webb, 2009).

This method trains the mind to keep searching, even when a reasonable answer is found. Learning by asking questions is seen as a road that has no end. In addition to gaining literacy skills, natural learning is seen as the key to educating oneself without dependency on others. Everyday life moments are viewed as teachable moments, when taken advantage of, valuable lessons can be learned.

Stages of Reading Development

By: Pacific Resources for Education and Learning

1) Emergent Readers
Children need enriching and enjoyable experiences with books, especially picture books. Recognize letters and words and even language patterns. Able to work with concepts of print and are at the beginning stages of developing the ability to focus attention on lettersound relationships.

Sharing books over and over, extending stories, relating experiences to both print and pictures, and guiding students to "read," helps children begin to make predictions about what they are reading.

2) Early Readers
Children are able to use several strategies to predict a word, often using pictures to confirm predictions. They can discuss the background of the story to better understand the actions in the story and the message the story carries. It is this time in the reader's development that the cueing systems are called upon significantly, so they must pay close attention to the visual cues and language patterns, and read for meaning. It is a time when reading habits of risk-taking, and of predicting and confirming words while keeping the meaning in mind are established.

3) Transitional Readers
Transitional readers often like to read books in a series as a comprehension strategy; the shared characters, settings, and events support their reading development. They read at a good pace; reading rate is one sign of a child's over-all comprehension.
At this stage, children generally have strategies to figure out most words but continue to need help with understanding increasingly more difficult text.

4) Fluent Readers
Fluent readers are confident in their understandings of text and how text works, and they are reading independently.
The teacher focuses on students' competence in using strategies to integrate the cueing systems. Students are maintaining meaning through longer and more complex stretches of language. An effective reader has come to understand text as something that influences people's ideas.

Literacy Organizations
Hamilton Public Library - From the vote in 1889 to create the first library in
Hamilton to today's 24 location, two bookmobile and virtual branch system, the Hamilton Public Library is a great literacy promoting resource!

Early Words/1ers mots - "Our vision is to provide the highest quality of

service for children with communication needs by committed professionals in respectful partnership with families and caregivers. Our primary mandate is to provide regionally co-ordinate preschool speech and language services to children and their families.

HWDSB Parenting and Family Literacy Centres - Parenting and Family

Literacy Centres are school-based programs for parents and their children, aged birth to six years of age that operate during the school day. The parent/caregiver stays with the child at all times. These programs help to prepare children for school and encourage families to be part of their childrens learning .

ABC Life Literacy Canada is a non-profit organization that inspires Canadians to increase
their literacy skills. They connect and mobilize business, unions, government, communities and individuals to support lifelong learning, and achieve their goals through leadership programs, communications and partnerships. ABC Life Literacy Canada envisions a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life.

Hamilton Literacy Council is a non-profit, community-based organization that provides

basic (grade 1 - 5 equivalent) training in reading, writing, and math to English-speaking adults. Their service is free, private, and one-to-one.

Frontier College - Frontier College operates a variety of literacy programs in locations

across Canada. We recruit and train volunteers to work with children, youth and adults in a great array of settings. We also help other community-based organizations set up and run literacy programs for their own participants. As Canadas original literacy organization, Frontier College has been recruiting dedicated volunteers to work with Canadian children, youth and adults from coast to coast since 1899. Our programs have helped millions of Canadians improve their literacy skills.

Early Literacy Resources

The Early Literacy Checklist is a reflective self-assessment tool enabling programs and specialists working with young children:
to better evaluate to what extent they support literacy in young children to better evaluate to what extent they support literacy within families to better evaluate to what extent they engage in community partnerships in supporting child and family literacy

Who Should Use the Early Literacy Checklist?

Any early years program or service which includes: Ontario Early Years Centres, child care centres, home child care agencies and associations, libraries, family resource programs and kindergarten. The checklist is adaptable to the varied programs.

Early Literacy Checklist: Infant toddler checklist:

Contact the Early Literacy Specialists

Kim Burns (English support) 905-574-6876 ext. 235 Evette Sauriol (French and English support) 905-574-6876 ext. 234

Mailing address: 526 Upper Paradise Rd. Unit A Hamilton ON L9C 5E3

Fax: 905-574-8843

Family Literacy Week

January 27 - 31

Celebrate Hamilton Family Literacy Week!

The Hamilton community has celebrated Family Literacy Day since its inception in January of 1999. In 2005, Family Literacy Day was expanded to a week-long celebration Hamilton Family Literacy Week. The program promotes the importance of reading together as a family and features an annual booklist highlighting Canadian authors and illustrators, all of whom will be visiting the city, as well as a city-pajama party! The ninth annual Hamilton Family Literacy Week celebration will take place from January 27 to 31, 2013. Hamilton Family Literacy Week is a program of Early Literacy Hamilton and Hamilton Best Start.

There are several outcomes associated with Hamilton Family Literacy Week:
Encourage families and young people to read together. Focus on the talent of Canadian authors. Celebrate books and reading across our community. Experience the magic of hearing authors read from their books and illustrators demonstrating their skills. Learn first hand what it is like to write a book. Continue to grow cooperative efforts among organizations in Hamilton.