Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Creating a Joyful Journey

“Literacy” is defined, in its most basic form, as the ability to read and write. We can all agree that these are desirable skills, ones we are eager for our children to develop in their early years and also something that will serve them well throughout their lives. But not all children will develop these skills at the same time or in the same ways. One of our primary jobs as parents, educators, and librarians is to do our best to understand and respect the unique journey that each child travels along the path to literacy.

Children often show us clear characteristics of their personalities and learning styles from a very early age. Some learn to speak coherently when still quite young; others take extra time to develop their communication styles. Many are more concerned with physical pursuits, saving the finer points of language until a later date. Still others immerse themselves in the imaginative aspects of their lives before we think it possible. Perhaps most surprisingly, we notice children who seem to operate intuitively almost from birth, curious about the more emotional content of their lives and how interactions with other people can shape their world. Pretty much all children do all of these things to greater or lesser degrees, but usually they demonstrate a preference or inclination toward one approach above others.

It can be very tempting to try to manipulate the paths our children are on to encourage earlier speaking, reading, and writing. Sometimes this is successful, and it’s certainly beneficial to offer as many opportunities for them to play with sound, language, and written words as possible. But just as important is celebrating the value of physical play, contemplation, and human interaction in developing not only the words themselves, but the context in which those words take on form and meaning. Children are remarkably adept at figuring out what they need, when they need it. This goes for reading and writing as well as communicating basic needs and desires. All of them will reach that literacy plateau eventually, in their own time. It’s our job to make sure they have fun getting there so that the journey will have been, and will continue to be, a joyful one.

Guest post by Bridget W.

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