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Emergent Literacy: How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier? Essay

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2022

What is emergent literacy

Young children have been showing trends in learning literacy and language since birth. In fact, one should look even earlier in life formation to discover the first signs of getting these concepts. While in the womb, the fetus remembers the rhythm of language, hears the first sounds, and tries to interpret them. It is well known that the intrauterine baby can react differently to external sounds and noises, which only confirms the prenatal development of language and literacy (de Bellefonds, 2019). This means that the education of children should start as early as possible.

However, if attention is paid to the next stage of development when the child has already been born but has not yet learned how to satisfy the fundamental physiological and biological needs on their own, one can find many intriguing features. In order to combine the full range of different skills and their manifestations that are characteristic of children of early and pre-school age, specialists introduced the concept of “emergent literacy” (“Emergent literacy,” 2020) Many parents notice that even before a child learns to read or write, they show primary signs of learning literacy. Here are a few examples of how this can be illustrated: a child mutters and tries to connect a few letters, points to pictures to books, or tries to draw scribbles by themselves. No matter how primitive these attempts may be: these are the first steps towards language learning.

Emphasis should be placed on the fact that emergent literacy goes beyond the usual reading or writing. To simplify understanding this idea, it is enough to present an example when a parent tells their child an “evening” tale. Having listened to the story several times, the child can independently retell it to their friends or interrupt the tutor in the children’s care center and clarify that they missed some sentences (“Emergent literacy,” 2019). Thus, even without knowing the language and not knowing how to fold letters, the child has literacy.

Based on the above, it is essential to clarify that emergent literacy development is crucial to the harmonious formation of language skills in preschoolers. Furthermore, it means that proper and timely mastering of these skills guarantees a child more comfortable learning to writing and reading.

Whole language approach

The diversity of the pedagogical approaches to teaching children to write and read gave rise to various reading mastery philosophies. While some methods are aimed at inductive technologies, others, on the contrary, are taught “from general to special.” One such strategy is a whole language approach (WLA), the idea of which is to present language as an indivisible, indestructible system (“Reading wars,” n.d.). The key to this approach is the recognition that the language is not discrete, which postulates that words, without division into words or letters, are semantic units of speech.

A WL philosophy has at least four properties that help a child learn literacy profoundly before phonetics was studied. First of all, it should be recognized that this approach does not imply simple memorization of letters, their combinations, and syllables, but the acceptance of the word as a structural block. Thus, the interaction of words generates sentences, and thus the meaning of the text. Secondly, however paradoxical it may be, the fundamental component of this philosophy is phonetic awareness. According to Morin (2020), awareness is expressed in the ability of sub-lexical reading, in which a preschooler is free to read written words. An important note is that a child does not emphasize syllables or letters when reading words, but perceives only the word as a whole unit. Third, a holistic approach is provided by the idea that language is integrated into all child’s early learning areas, whether it is natural science or arithmetic. Words become something that a baby should use every day, regardless of the conditions. Finally, some researchers believe that constructivism, in which a child learns language based on their own experience of interaction, makes sense (Linde, 2020).

Two activities can be offered to parents for children studying for preschool literacy. Although the child does not yet know how to read or write, they already know what words are and how they are used. The first strategy may be to ask the child to come up with a word that can follow the one in the sentence. For instance, a parent may ask a child what can be used after the phrase “To be or…”. This helps to develop imagination and builds conscience structures. The second activity can be the wellknown game “Skippy the Frog” in which a child can skip an unknown or difficult word, and then return to it when the general sense of the sentence becomes clearer. This method will help the child not feel embarrassed because of the ignorance of some words and to predict the meaning of the untrained terms.

Phonics approach

This approach represents the opposite view of how reading is studied. Proponents of phonetics believe that the structural unit of language is the letter, which means that learning letters and their combinations guarantees a thorough understanding of the language system (International Literacy Association, 2018). The process of such reading is called decoding and can be visually presented in the following example.

HAT is “H”, then “A”, and “T.”

By learning the language in this way, preschoolers traditionally begin by studying the alphabet. The song about letters is the standard practice for such training that may be known to all parents. The addition of sounds with images of letters allows creating a visual picture of what phonemes look like, which is equivalent to the first milestones in speech learning.

Available activities that can be used by families at home are any activity aimed at learning individual letters and then composing whole words from them. For instance, a parent may ask a child to collect their name or any family member’s name from bricks with letters. Simultaneously, the child can continue to create and invent their own words from their name. This covers the need for creative thinking and helps the child realize the structured nature of words. The second activity is a game that develops the child’s physical qualities: the parent throws the ball to the child and calls the letter, for instance, “C.” The preschooler must not only catch this ball but also name any word that begins with this letter: cat, crocodile, or coconut. Hence, the child can spend extra energy on training, have fun, and learn some new words.

Integrated approach

Pre-schoolers can benefit from an integrated approach based on the synthesis of phonetic and WL approaches. In the first stages, the child learns phonetics: the connection between letters and sounds (“An integrated approach,” 2018). Once some understanding of the material has been achieved, the teacher invites the student to make up words from letters and use words in the text. This approach is most optimal for the child since it demonstrates the sequence of learning the language system and takes advantage of each of the existing philosophies.

A good plan for learning to read in this context can be a joint reading with filling in the blanks. For instance, a parent and their baby read a paragraph of any fairy tale, in which some words are missing. The child has a set of letters based on which they have to fold the word and insert it into a fragment. This is how it can look:

Once there was a _ _ _ _ _ _ in the kingdom, who always wanted to conquer the world.


Another idea is relevant for more adult children who can already read separate words. They may be offered an interactive game in which it is necessary to complete the text to make sense. In particular, a preschooler is given a piece of paper on which a fragment of text is written, and passes are instead of some letters. The child should understand what letter to insert in a text fragment so that the story has not lost its original meaning. Here is an example:

Once there was a _at who decided to e_t delicious food. But there was no foo_ at _ome, so the _at decided to _unt for a _ird in the gar_en. It is a pi_y, but the _ird was more cu__ing than a _at, and ate the _at itself.


de Bellefonds, C. (2019). Fetal sense of hearing: What your baby can hear in utero. Web.

Emergent literacy. (2020). Web.

Emergent literacy. (2019). Web.

An integrated approach to teaching reading. (2018). Web.

International Literacy Association. (2018). Explaining phonics instruction [PDF document]. Web.

Linde, S. (2020). The whole language approach to reading. Web.

Morin, A. (2020). Web.

Reading wars: Phonics vs. whole language instruction. (n.d.). Web.

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1. IvyPanda. "Emergent Literacy: How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier?" June 13, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emergent-literacy-how-to-make-your-childs-life-easier/.


IvyPanda. "Emergent Literacy: How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier?" June 13, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emergent-literacy-how-to-make-your-childs-life-easier/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "Emergent Literacy: How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier?" June 13, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emergent-literacy-how-to-make-your-childs-life-easier/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Emergent Literacy: How to Make Your Child’s Life Easier'. 13 June.

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