Literacy Foundation

  • Updated December 26, 2021
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Becoming literate is a transformation overtime building upon the child’s background knowledge, exposure to reading and writing instruction, and developing an internal desire to become effectively literate.

I adhere to the concept that when children are developmentally ready the reading and writing process is almost seamless, however when instruction in reading and writing are performed too soon, children often times struggle. Piaget’s (1985) socio-cognitive conflict theory argues that the cognitive conflict resulting from social exchange leads to higher levels of reasoning and learning (Arshad and Chen 2009). Piaget’s theory that social exchanges affect the levels of reasoning and learning leads me to the thought children who are exposed to reading at earlier ages in many settings begin to develop the foundation of literacy success sooner.

From an early age, children need to be exposed to books and reading to help develop word knowledge. Children need basic oral vocabulary and alphabetic awareness before they can begin to read and write. A child’s background knowledge and social interactions enact a role in the process of learning to read and write. Being exposed socially to learning to read and write can help prepare children developmentally for mastering literacy. However, the ability to become a literate person does not develop with only exposure, but also requires planning and instruction.

Becoming a literate learner is an experience where the learner must be an active participant in constructing literacy skills. The process of reading is fluent, accurate word identification skills as well as comprehending what is being read either orally or silently. According to NAEYC (1998), “Children need regular and active interactions with print” (p.3). Before effective reading can be mastered, children need basic knowledge of picture, symbol and object correlation, alphabetic principles of letter and sound correlation, phonemic awareness, a working knowledge of the alphabetic system for inventive spelling along with vocabulary development.

Literacy does not only include the aspects of reading but as well as writing. When children have more opportunities to write, they are beginning to form valuable meaning in their writing. Children are writing when they are using basic lines and symbols to express themselves. Becoming a literate writer, a child will begin to translate what they have read or seen read to them into simple notations. Over time, children will begin forming appropriate letters to the sounds they are hearing. As the development continues, vowels are added and then spelling patterns. Eventually writing for meaning as well as writing for communication to become fluent.

Demonstrating competence in literacy varies from each developmental stage. When children become more fluent in reading and writing they are increasing their competency of literacy. Reading, writing, speaking as well as listening should be incorporated into a child’s literacy program to support competence in literacy. When a student demonstrates effective literacy skills, they are able to utilize their own reading and writing strategies to develop meaning from the text. This varies with difficulty according to the age range of the child. A competent kindergartener will show different levels of that of a third grader. Children in the early grades, kindergarten and first grade, show effective literacy in pre-reading strategies, whereas a third-grade child becomes stronger in morphology reading strategies and comprehension. Children naturally grow through the stages from learning to read into reading to learn while becoming fluent and showing automaticity in literacy.

Cultural, linguistic and socio-economic diversity can affect literacy. Families can differ on the amount of support and value placed on being literate. There are many homes where the parents value literacy and demonstrate literacy rituals as reading in front of their children, with their children and to their children. Whereas there are many homes where parents may value literacy but are not literate themselves, therefore they struggle with modeling those behaviors. Children who speak a different language than they are learning to read within may have further troubles becoming literate. This language barrier provides a limitation to the amount of parental literacy interaction that may occur. Students can become confused when going from the home reading environment to the school reading environment. It is clear there are many groups of children who have their literacy impacted by cultural, linguistic and socio-economically.

Literacy practices vary from grade level expectations. Kindergarten and first-grade classrooms may focus on sound structure, recognition of letters, verbal interactions with books and vocabulary. Writing should be encouraged throughout the day as well as direct instruction with letter formations. Phonemic awareness, letter-sound correlations, and sight words should be accessible to enriched within the instructions. Literacy practices in the upper elementary grades where students have foundational skills in reading and writing classrooms should provide a variety of independent reading opportunities with meaningful text. Within classrooms, instruction should promote comprehension skills both verbally and silently within a variety of genres. Direct instruction with teacher modeling of summarizing, inferencing and predicting should occur within the reading instruction, to help students cohesively build reading strategies.

Literacy instruction should support students developing reading and writing on independent levels. Grade level and developmentally appropriate materials should be provided to children to minimize their frustration levels as well as maximize their time on literacy tasks. Instruction should include teacher read-aloud of more difficult text to promote increasing the children’s listening vocabulary.

As with all children, literacy instruction and classrooms will be different. There is not a one size fits all to reading instruction. Knowing the developmental milestones children have will help teachers manage their classroom reading instruction. Teachers who are conscious that children need exploration, experimental reading and writing, and print awareness within the early ages will support literacy beginnings. As an illiterate person until later in life, allowing children to explore reading and writing within their abilities drives my classroom instruction. Understanding that the development of early and transitional reading and writing, occur within the first-third grades, drives my literacy instruction in my current classroom.

Having students enter into my classroom fluctuating between transitional and independent reading and writing is very common. As a teacher, assessing their prior knowledge and skills is imperative for me to tailor my reading instruction to their needs. Growing up I recall only having one or two teachers who were able to do this for me, and I am determined to incorporate the student’s literacy foundation, fill in their gaps and facilitate a positive learning environment and provide effective instruction within their developmental sequence.


  1. Arshad, M., & Chen, W. H.. Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory of literacy Scaffolding children to read and write at an early age. Wacana, Journal of the Humanities of Indonesia, 11(2), 319-334. Doi:10.17510/wjhi.v11i2.164
  2. Ferhat Ensar. How Children Construct Literacy: Piagetian Perspective. International Journal of Secondary Education. Vol. 2, No. 2, 2014, pp. 34-39. Doi: 0.11648/j.ijsedu.20140202.12
  3. Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children: A joint position statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Adopted 1998. (1998). Young Children, 53(4), 30-46. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42728456

Cite this paper

Literacy Foundation. (2021, Dec 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/literacy-foundation/

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