How Does Your Story Start? Early Literacy Development ~

How Does Your Story Start?

Author and Kindergarten teacher, Vivien Gussein Paley, built her curriculum around the stories of the children in her class. The process of dictating, transcribing, illustrating and re-enacting their personal stories became the foundation of each child’s literacy. Children learned the conventions of story telling. They learned that stories have a sequence: a beginning, a middle and an end. They learned the words, “Once upon a time…” that indicate a story’s genre, whether it is real or make-believe, and it’s setting in history. As they acted out their stories, they took on adult roles and learned through imitation, appropriate social behaviors and began to understand the psychology of others’ feelings. They began to develop empathy. As they saw their words being transcribed onto paper, and heard them read back to them again, they developed an understanding of the purpose for writing as they developed the motivation to communicate their ideas and learned to reflect their learning through the representation of words. Children’s interest in language was captured, enhanced and elaborated by the presence of an interested, friendly adult. Children were learning to learn.

These are the foundations of literacy that we work to provide here at the Five Mile River Nursery School. The literacy environment is composed not just of great books, both fiction and non-fiction, but all kinds of motivations for children to read, write, converse and think. Research shows that verbal readiness at kindergarten entry was the strongest predictor of first- through fifth-grade standardized test scores and grades in math and reading. In order to support children’s literacy development, children need to be constantly surrounded by modeled literacy behaviors. Adults need to model their interest in, delight and passion for books, and make reading books aloud a delicious experience that excites curiosity, generates feeling and inspires reflection. Books must be chosen intentionally for their richness in language, ideas, and information.

You may be surprised to learn that literacy development begins in infancy with a secure attachment to a loving adult who interacts both verbally and non-verbally with them. In fact, children who have been warmly engaged in conversation, actually have higher I.Q.s than other children. Interactions which include open-ended questions that require an extended response, helps to develop self-regulation and higher-order thinking skills. Children who are “quizzed” with closed-answer, right or wrong questions, or hear mostly directives, fail to develop the rich vocabulary that forms their background knowledge and frame of reference that promotes self-assurance in the formal learning setting of school. The wider and the richer the set of experiences you provide your child, and how you talk about those experiences, enables your child to encounter new situations with confidence, adaptability, and resiliency.

At our Drama Day enrichment program we ask children, “How does your story start?” and they provide us with insight into their thoughts, and a delightful opportunity to learn their perspective on their world.

Max is acting out his version of Little Red Riding Hood while Gavin prepares to become the Big Bad Wolf!

Children select books that support their interests and passions.

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