Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why is Early Literacy Important?

Statistics Canada reports that more than 42% of Canadians lack the basic literacy skills required to succeed in today’s society (Statistics Canada & Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD], 2005). Low literacy impacts all aspects of life: adults with poor literacy skills work less, are unemployed longer and more frequently, require more social assistance, and are in poorer health (Statistics Canada & OECD, 2005).

Problems with literacy arise long before individuals reach adulthood. Annually, Ontario’s Educational Quality Assurance Office (EQAO) measures reading, writing, and mathematics literacy in all children in Grades 3 and 6. According to recent test results, a large percentage of children – approximately 30% – of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students in Ontario – lack the expected reading, writing, and mathematics skills, even at this early age (EQAO, 2009). Even more astounding, the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services (2007) found that by just four and five years of age, approximately one-fifth of all children show delays in vocabulary development.

Around this same age, communities of children are evaluated on readiness to learn using the Early Development Instrument (EDI). It specifically measures outcomes of children’s early years as they influence children’s readiness to learn before entry into Grade 1. Kindergarten teachers use a questionnaire which measures school-readiness-to-learn across five learning domains: emotional maturity, social competence, physical health and well being, language and cognitive development, communication skills and general knowledge. According to a Community Profiles Report (2007), about 25% of children in Ontario's South East Region are considered low in one or more domains (I only have access to local data).

This demonstrates that the first three years of a child’s life have enormous impacts on the development of basic language and cognitive skills. Truly, they lay the foundation for literacy development. In fact, the influence of a child’s home language environment can be observed within the first few months after birth. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers, and so they need to be aware of the importance of creating a language and literacy rich environment in the home. They need simple, common sense strategies they can use to help their children get ready to learn for the rest of their lives.

Please share this blog with a parent or child care provider you know today.

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