| Jul 24, 2008

Sept 25/08 - Early Literacy

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Early Literacy - September 25, 2008 I hear what you’re saying!by Susan Ramsay, Early Literacy Specialist, HFL&A“Juno, come!” My dog, which had already rolled over, sat and stayed, does not come.

“Juno, come!” Slight exasperation is sneaking into my voice.

Juno stays in the kitchen, obediently remembering my last command to “stay” and does not respond to this command I give from the living room. Hmmm. I had twinned “roll over”, “sit” and “stay” with hand gestures he could see. “Come” was commanded beyond his line of vision. Could my aging dog be experiencing a loss of hearing?

Though hearing loss can appear in subtle ways, its impact is profound. Especially for young children, their ability to hear sounds, words and inflection are crucial to their development of speech, language and reading skills.

Speech pathologists and literacy educators refer to this ability as phonological awareness. Phonological awareness includes hearing words that rhyme (rime), begin with the same sound (on-set), their syllables (rhythm and stress) word segments (e.g. prefixes, suffixes) and phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound found in words. The word “chat”, for example, has four letters but only three phonemes /ch/ /a/ and /t/.

Hearing and understanding the separate sounds in words are not easy for young children. And children with hearing impairments will not develop these necessary language and literacy skills without intervention.

Early Literacy Specialist, Deb Nesbitt-Munroe, has developed a resource for parents and educators of young children with information and ideas about how to help children develop phonological awareness. This resource is found on the www.familyliteracyexpertise.org website under “Emergent Literacy la Carte”. Nesbitt-Munroe includes a guide for phonological awareness:

From 3 to 5 years of age children can:

Hear rhymes: come, from, humHear alliterations: dog, duck, dig

From 5 to 6 years children can:

Segment words into syllables: hear-ing; a-ware-nessSegment words into chunks using onsets: s-it, c-omeSegment words into chunks using rimes: “ear” in hear, dear or “it” in sit, pitIdentify different sounds at the beginning of words: /s/it, /d/own, /c/omeIdentify different sounds at the end of words: si/t/, dow/n/Identify different sounds in the middle of words: s/i/t; d/o/g

From 6 to 7 years children can:

Hear, segment and say phonemes in a word separately: /d/ /o/ /g/Hear, delete and move phonemes in words: “dog” rearranged to say “god”

Phonological awareness starts the first time we talk and sing to children. It continues to develop as we share nursery rhymes and tongue twisters and play word games such as “I spy with my little eye something that starts with….” (Phoneme such as /s/ or /d/).

It also starts with knowing your children can clearly hear the sounds that surround them. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s hearing, contact your family physician or your Preschool Speech and Language program to help ensure your child has the best start possible to language and literacy learning.

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