Raise A Reader is a joint early literacy initiative of the Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom County Library System. Raise A Reader aims to increase community awareness about early learning and early literacy practices through storytimes, activity centers and community outreach.
What is Early Learning and Early Literacy?
Children are born learning, therefore learning to read begins at birth! Early learning is everything a child experiences and learns in the first years of life, generally from birth – age 5. Early literacy is a component of early learning, and is specifically what children know about communication and language before they are able to read and write. Early literacy is about building a strong foundation upon which a child will be ready to learn to read and write. There are five simple, powerful, and fun practices that can establish that foundation.* The five practices are:
Talking: Children learn about language by listening to adults talk and by joining in the conversation.
Singing: Songs are a natural way for children to learn language.
Reading: Reading together is the single most important way to help children get ready to read.
Writing: Writing and reading go together. Scribbling and writing help children learn that written words stand for spoken language.
Playing: Playing helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically. Children learn through play!
Why Do Early Learning and Early Literacy Matter?
Did you know that about 85% of human brain development occurs in the first three years of life?** This is a critical window in brain development in which young children form the “wiring” necessary to think, communicate, move and form attachments with those around them. It is during this time that children’s brains are like sponges: they absorb information from watching, listening, touching and generally interacting with the world and people around them.
Children who frequently experience the early literacy practices of talking, singing, reading, writing and playing beginning at birth build a strong foundation for being able to read and write. These skills will prepare them to enter school ready to learn and succeed.
Many children who start out behind in kindergarten stay behind through high school. According to statistics gathered by the Whatcom Early Learning Alliance in January 2014, 33% of Whatcom County kindergarteners do not meet literacy standards upon beginning school. This percentage remains somewhat static for the remainder of the child’s academic career, as 29% of students in Whatcom County do not read at grade level in 3rd grade and 26% of students in Whatcom County will not graduate from high school.
Building a strong foundation of early literacy skills prior to beginning school is key to success in school. This foundation can begin at birth simply by talking, singing, reading, writing and playing with your child, everyday.