How to Build Literacy Skills through Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Supporting pre-reading and early literacy skills creates a strong foundation for a child’s future – both academically and socially. Did you know that materials don’t have to be specifically designed for literacy in order to support literacy skills? 

It’s true! All of The Discovery Source’s social-emotional resources also support literacy and pre-reading skills in young children. Let’s dig into this!

Pre-reading Skills

Early literacy refers to the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that shape a child’s ability to learn how to read and write. Here’s where early childhood educators and environments come in. High-quality instruction and classroom supports can grow and strengthen these pre-reading skills in young learners. 

There are six pre-reading skills that research shows are critical for young children. First, let’s review the pre-reading skills, and then we’ll connect The Discovery Source materials that support each one.

1. Print Motivation

One of the most basic, but most important, literacy skills is developing an interest in written language. Children make meaning of what happens around them, so when adults show interest in reading and books, children are more likely to want to use books, too. 

2. Print Awareness

Acknowledging letters, text, and written language in their environment is another key skill for young children. As adults use and point to display in the classroom, such as a classroom schedule, children become interested in how the display affects them. Young children begin to become aware of written letters, numbers, and words and then relate these things to meaning. 

3. Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge simply means that children understand letters have names and sounds associated with them. While letter knowledge is important, it’s key to remember to use developmentally-appropriate practices to teach letter names and sounds. Games, songs, and other interactive experiences are better and more engaging than worksheets or flashcards.

4. Vocabulary

Although they may not be able to read words yet, children are actively building their vocabulary. They learn new words by hearing them repeated over and over and seeing them in print alongside helpful pictures. Describing their drawings or scribbles to teachers who then write dictations on their artwork helps children to practice using new vocabulary. 

5. Narrative Skills

The basis for reading comprehension, being able to tell and retell stories is a critical pre-reading skill. A key concept in narrative skills is sequencing and ordering events. At its most basic, this may look like identifying what happened first and what happened next, but over time children can learn to retell events in greater detail and with more specific steps.

6. Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds. Rhyming (same ending sound) and alliteration (same beginning sound) are two big concepts within the phonological awareness skill. 

Ways to Support Pre-Reading Skills 

Read Aloud: Reading aloud to children exposes them to a wide vocabulary and sparks an interest in books and print. Choose age-appropriate, engaging books with colorful illustrations, photos, and interesting characters. Encourage active participation by asking questions, predicting what might happen, and retelling the story with children. (Tucker Turtle Takes Time to Tuck and Think, Neurodiversity Books, Board Books for Toddlers)

Songs, Rhyming, Games, and Alliteration: Develop phonological awareness with rhyming games, songs and fingerplays, and identifying alliteration. (Alliteration – Tucker Turtle, Atlas Alligator, Maria Monkey, Sol Sloth, Haven Hummingbird)

Vocabulary Building: Build children’s vocabulary by exposing them to a wide range of words in meaningful contexts. Use descriptive language during conversations and activities, introduce new words during storytime, and encourage children to ask questions about unfamiliar words. (Children’s Book Collection, Pyramid Model Classroom Kit, which includes Classroom Visual Display Kit, Emotional Literacy Kit, Problem Solver Solutions Kit, Super Friend Kit)

Storytelling and Retelling: Encourage children to engage in storytelling and retelling activities to develop comprehension skills and narrative understanding. Provide props, puppets, or story sequencing cards to support children in retelling stories in their own words. (Tucker and Friends puppets, sequencing steps of Tucker Technique)

Print Awareness: Help children develop print awareness by pointing out print in the environment and demonstrating how print works. Show children how to hold a book, turn pages from left to right, and track words as you read aloud. Encourage children to point to the words associated with their emotions on the Feeling Wheel or Emotion Cards and Posters. When utilizing the Tucker Technique, incorporate the wall poster or cards. Find solutions to common classroom issues with the Problem Solver Solutions cards and point to the words as you read them with children. (Pyramid Model Kit)

Writing Activities: Provide opportunities for children to explore writing through drawing, scribbling, and eventually forming letters and words. Place emotional literacy cards on a table and offer a variety of writing materials such as markers, crayons, chalk, and paintbrushes, to encourage children to express their emotions through writing. (Emotional Literacy Kit)

Literacy-Rich Environment: Create a print-rich environment at home and in classroom or childcare settings by providing accessible books, writing materials, and wall displays. Designate a cozy reading corner with comfortable seating and various books for children to explore independently. (Pyramid Model Kit)

Supporting Pre-reading Skills through Social-emotional Supports Summary

Literacy is a part of nearly every aspect of early childhood education, including social-emotional learning. By implementing the above strategies and providing a high-quality environment, teachers and providers can effectively support pre-reading and early literacy skills while building social-emotional resilience, and preparing children for positive experiences with reading, writing, and beyond.

If you’d like more information on how to use The Discovery Source materials to support literacy in your program, reach out to our Professional Development Team. We’d be happy to design a training for you! 

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