Nancy Ewald Jackson
Cathy M. Roller
This report provides research-based answers to questions parents and teachers often ask about how reading and writing develop from infancy to about age 6 years. The unusually rapid development of these skills in some young children is considered in a major section on precocious readers. Precocious reading ability is a form of gifted intellectual performance that may appear alone or together with other kinds of gifted performance. However, this report was not written only for those who are concerned with the development or education of gifted children. Much of the report addresses general questions about the development of reading and writing ability in young children who may have other gifts. Each major section of the report was written so that it can stand alone, and each contains a separate reference list and list of recommended resources for parents and teachers.
The research literatures summarized in this report reveal that literacy development begins very early as the 2- or 3-year-old child acquires a broad base of knowledge and skills in the context of a wide range of activities and experiences. Learning to identify and print letters and words are important parts of beginning to read and write, but early literacy development also encompasses learning about the nature of stories, the characteristics and functions of print, and the sound patterns of oral language. Aspects of reading and writing skills are likely to develop in predictable sequences, but individual children’s development across skill areas may be uneven. Literacy-related activities are most likely to nurture a child’s development if they are geared to the child’s current level of understanding and interest. The reasons why some children become precocious readers are not well understood. Precocious readers are likely to have a solid repertoire of reading skills, but individuals differ in their relative strengths, and precocious readers may not be equally advanced in other skill areas, such as writing or reasoning. Precocious readers are likely to remain good readers, but children who have not started early often catch up. Early assessment of a child’s reading and writing skills may facilitate the development of appropriate curriculum for both precocious and slow-to-develop readers.
Reading With Young Children
Nancy Ewald Jackson
Cathy M. Roller
- During the preschool years, children begin understanding that print has meaning, that writing takes particular forms, and that words consist of sets of sounds.
- Effective story reading involves talking about the story and listening to the child’s reactions.
- A child’s mastery of oral language is likely to be one of the most critical factors in a child’s success in reading. In early reading development, the child’s developing knowledge of letters, sounds, words, and aspects of a story is important. In later development, wide-ranging knowledge of the world and the ability to express it becomes more critical.
- In early writing as in early reading, preschool children initially use unconventional forms that gradually develop into the conventional forms used by adults. A child’s early reading and writing skills sometimes develop in parallel sequences, but there is evidence that one area may develop more rapidly than another.
- While learning to read involves much more than learning to name letters and recognize their sounds, learning letter names and sounds and the relationships between them is an important part of early literacy development.
- Reading failure in later years can be prevented by the early identification of reading difficulties, followed by appropriate instruction.
- Precocious reading is an example of giftedness as defined by the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988.