Literacy in its most basic form is the ability both to understand and to express one’s feelings, wants, and experiences to others. Early literacy and emergent literacy both describe the process of developing language and concepts, especially as they begin to be linked together. This begins at birth, long before any formal instruction happens.
Early literacy development is a continuous process that begins in the first years of a child’s life. It is a complex task because oral language, reading, and writing skills are intimately linked and develop concurrently.
The first three years of exploring and playing with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, recognizing words, and learning to write a few of them are truly the building blocks for language and literacy development. Indeed, acquiring early literacy skills are essential to literacy development and should be the focus of early language and literacy programs.
Formal instruction that requires young children who are not developmentally ready to read can actually be counter-productive and potentially damaging to children, who may begin to associate reading and books with failure.
Current early literacy theory emphasizes the more natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between young children and adults, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences.
And, as children learn in this manner, they come to understand how oral language (listening to the sounds of words, associating meaning to the spoken word) and written language relate to each other.1