It’s Elementary! Supporting Literacy in the Primary Grades
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When the topic of early childhood education is raised, it is not uncommon for thoughts to turn to children at the younger end of the early childhood spectrum. It bears repeating that early childhood spans birth through age eight. As such, it is important that young children beyond the preschool years continue to be served by educators using developmentally appropriate practices. With that in mind, we present a cluster of articles featuring evidence-based practices that foster the literacy development of children in kindergarten through third grade.
Though articles included in the cluster focus on the literacy of children 5 through 8 years old, much of the content discussed is relevant to younger children as well. The cluster authors—classroom teachers, literacy and early childhood education researchers, and experts in the field— offer a variety of perspectives on literacy development for this segment of young children.
- Reading aloud to children, a curriculum staple in programs serving the youngest of the early childhood population, can be a powerful tool in elementary school classrooms as well. Hoffman, Teale, and Yokota demonstrate how complex literacy processing is promoted when texts are carefully selected and interactive book discussions are crafted to promote multiple interpretations of the text.
- Gill presents a different take on children’s literature, examining the language of picture books and the interplay between words and pictures. She describes ways children’s literacy development is enhanced by teasing out meaning that goes beyond understanding the printed text.
- Print is not just about books. Axelrod, Hall, and McNair emphasize the importance of looking beyond the classroom library for ways to include print in the classroom, and they provide practical suggestions for creating literacy-rich environments that support learning.
- Boutte offers guidance for teachers of children whose speech reflects that of the African American community. Positioning such speech as African American Language (AAL) rather than a dialect or “broken English,” she sheds light on the structure of AAL and ways children’s literature can be used to facilitate the literacy development of AAL speakers who are learning Standard English.
- Paired learning and interactive word walls are the focus of another article examining the promotion of bi-literacy. Alanís, Salinas-Gonzalez, and Arreguín-Anderson highlight the strengths of interactive word walls as a classroom support and illustrate how student pairs might use word walls to foster literacy development in English and children’s home languages.
- Challenges in literacy development sometimes lead to challenging behavior. Wilkins and Terlitsky suggest a positive and holistic way of addressing both issues in their discussion of family literacy programs.
- With a topic as vast and complex as literacy, a single journal issue can only scratch the surface. It is our hope, however, that this issue adds to readers’ understanding, offers some insights into the literacy development of young children, and fuels conversation about maintaining developmentally appropriate practice in kindergarten and the primary grades.
—Deanna Ramey, Journal Editor
Photograph: Getty Images
M. Deanna Ramey was formerly editor-in-chief of Young Children.