Early Reading and Writing Development

By Froma P. Roth, Ph.D, CCC-SLP and Diane R. Paul, Ph.D, CCC-SLP

Children start to learn language from the day they are born. As they grow and develop, their speech and language skills become increasingly more complex. They learn to understand and use language to express their ideas, thoughts, and feelings, and to communicate with others. During early speech and language development, children learn skills that are important to the development of literacy (reading and writing). This stage, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.

Children see and interact with print (e.g., books, magazines, grocery lists) in everyday situations (e.g., home, in preschool, and at daycare) well before they start elementary school. Parents can see their child’s growing appreciation and enjoyment of print as he or she begins to recognize words that rhyme, scribble with crayons, point out logos and street signs, and name some letters of the alphabet. Gradually, children combine what they know about speaking and listening with what they know about print and become ready to learn to read and write.

Are Spoken Language and Literacy Connected?

Yes. The experiences with talking and listening gained during the preschool period prepare children to learn to read and ite during the early elementary school years. This means that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to experience difficulties learning literacy skills than those who do not.

One spoken language skill that is strongly connected to early reading and writing is phonological awareness — the recognition that words are made up of separate speech sounds, for example, that the word dog is composed of three sounds: /d/, /o/, /g/. There are a variety of oral language activities that show children’s natural development of phonological awareness, including rhyming (e.g., “cat-hat”) and alliteration (e.g., “big bears bounce on beds”), and isolating sounds (“Mom, /f/ is the first sound in the word fish”).

As children playfully engage in sound play, they eventually learn to segment words into their separate sounds, and “map” sounds onto printed letters, which allows them to begin to learn to read and write. Children who perform well on sound awareness tasks become successful readers and writers, while children who struggle with such tasks often do not.

Who is at Risk?

There are some early signs that may place a child at risk for the acquisition of literacy skills. Preschool children with speech and language disorders often experience problems learning to read and write when they enter school. Other factors include physical or medical conditions (e.g., preterm birth requiring placement in a neonatal intensive care unit, chronic ear infections, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy), developmental disorders (e.g., mental retardation, autism spectrum), poverty, home literacy environment, and family history of language or literacy disabilities.

Early Warning Signs

Signs that may indicate later reading and writing and learning problems include persistent baby talk, absence of interest in or appreciation for nursery rhymes or shared book reading, difficulty understanding simple directions, difficulty learning (or remembering) names of letters, failure to recognize or identify letters in the child’s own name.

Role of the Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have a key role in promoting the emergent literacy skills of all children, and especially those with known or suspected literacy-related learning difficulties. The SLP may help to prevent such problems, identify children at risk for reading and writing difficulties, and provide intervention to remediate literacy-related difficulties. Prevention efforts involve working in collaboration with families, other caregivers, and teachers to ensure that young children have high quality and ample opportunities to participate in emergent literacy activities both at home and in daycare and preschool environments. SLPs also help older children or those with developmental delays who have missed such opportunities. Children who have difficulty grasping emergent literacy games and activities may be referred for further assessment so that intervention can begin as early as possible to foster growth in needed areas and increase the likelihood of successful learning and academic achievement.

Early Intervention Is Critical

Emergent literacy instruction is most beneficial when it begins early in the preschool period because these difficulties are persistent and often affect children’s further language and literacy learning throughout the school years. Promoting literacy development, however, is not confined to young children. Older children, particularly those with speech and language impairments, may be functioning in the emergent literacy stage and require intervention aimed at establishing and strengthening these skills that are essential to learning to read and write.

What Parents Can Do

You can help your child develop literacy skills during regular activities without adding extra time to your day. There also are things you can do during planned play and reading times. Show your children that reading and writing are a part of everyday life and can be fun and enjoyable. Activities for preschool children include the following:

  • Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in the everyday environment.
  • Repeat your child’s strings of sounds (e.g., “dadadada, bababa”) and add to them.
  • Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to his or her questions.
  • Draw your child’s attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, the park, and so on.
  • Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound, as found in Dr. Seuss books).
  • Reread your child’s favorite book(s).
  • Focus your child’s attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling (e.g., crayons, paper, markers, finger paints).
  • Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about his/her drawing and write down the words.

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What Is Dyslexia? | Child Psychology

Dyslexia is a very common term that I often hear parents use. Dyslexia actually means a reading disorder or a reading disability. Problems include difficulties with reading comprehension and understanding the main idea of what they’re reading. Dyslexia is never a vision problem. It’s just a difficulty with processing and understanding aspects of sound and language. There are many different strategies to help a child improve their problems with reading, such as specialized interventions in reading remediation, speech and language therapies, and a combination of both oftentimes. Children can definitely improve their reading skills and abilities with reading tutors, reading coaches. There are very specialized speech and language therapists that can also help strengthen a child’s reading skills. First their Dyslexia has to be diagnosed, which can be done through the collaboration of teachers, school psychologists, and a clinical professional. So these are some of the key concepts in understanding a reading disorder or Dyslexia.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #28 (A part of my novel)

A year had almost gone by and Toney was doing quite well.  During the past few months, he was able to acquire sufficient money working at Mr. Chin, so that he was able to make renovations to the house.

Jason was now approaching eighteen; doing so in a couple weeks.  He still missed his old home back on Dow Island, but at least his complaining got less and less in the ear of his parents.

Merry too had settled in nicely in the village.  From time to time she stitched draperies and sold.  The village women really grew to love her designs.  With almost any type of material Merry got her hands on, she was able to make artistic miracles happen.

Village life was quiet.  A bit quieter than what the family were used to on Dow Island, but, all in all, the few month were excellent.

***

About 8:00 pm on Sunday, Mr. Chin and his two daughters had already gone to bed for the night.

Toney and Merry had also turned in.  Toney lay in his usual position on the bed.  His back rested slightly against the wall.  Merry’s head in his arms.  Her ear listened to each thump of his heart.  Like the swings of a pendulum, the sound sent her sailing to the world of sleep.

Jason had asked to stay out a bit later and trusting him, Toney agreed.

The breeze gently ruffled the trees outside.

As Toney lay in bed, he imagined the life he wanted for his family.  A life filled with peace and unity, a life with ease, a life which will have been difficult, had he stayed on Dow Island.  He knew his upbringing was not the ideal but at present, he had done all he could to bring a measure of happiness to his family and so far, he was managing to do this.

As he too began fading into sleep, he heard the howls of his dogs.  His eyes widened.  He knew the call of his dogs signals and knew how to listen between their calls.  They did not let up.

Toney knocked his fingers gently on the window sill above his head.  He was hopping not to wake his wife, who by now was fast asleep.  Yet, with the howling outside, Merry did not even budge.

In the distance he heard a faint crackle, and then a slightly louder one.  He found it strange, as beaming on the window ledge appeared a bright light.  It was a brilliant glow, one that he could not ignore.  For a moment, he thought to himself that he had left the lamp on in the kitchen, but the light was not coming from inside the house.

“Merry, Merry wake up, I smell smoke!”

“What’s that Toney, why do you need soap?”  Merry groaned as she wrestled to open her scarlet shot eyes.

Toney rolled her off his arms and pulled himself to a seating position.

“Light,” he said.

“I am tired love, come back to bed,” she protested.

As she said those words, Toney brushed aside the cotton curtains and pushed his head out of the window opening.  By then, he knelt on the bed next to Merry’s head.  His eyes, squinting, narrowing his vision; feverishly he tried to get a fix on the location of the disturbance.

The cool air that was evident during the early evening, was converted into a great furnace of gray smoke, churning among the trees.  The skies were a red and orange blanket.

The teak trees along the footpath leading to the main road, became ghostly figures, creatures seeking shelter, bending in one direction but not able to take cover.

“Fire, fire Merry, something is not right out in the trees!”  Toney shouted.

“What?  Where is Jason, Toney?”  Merry, fully coming to her senses.

“I’m not sure Merry, I am sure he is alright though,” Toney jumped over her and grabbed his jeans from the corner of the room where it hung on a nail driven in the wall.

She threw a shirt at Toney as he ran out of the bedroom towards the kitchen.  As he moved passed Jason’s bedroom, he looked in but his son was absent.  Merry ran after him but stopped short at the kitchen table, her heart racing.  Her fingers and toes, cold.  Toney forced opened the front door, breaking the handle in his haste.  In the confusion, he did not realize his shoes lay tucked neatly beside the kitchen sink; jumped down the flight of steps and into the night.

Hurriedly, he moved through the track leading from his house, to the main road.  The air, chocking.  His toes, like claws propelling himself through the air, they seem to barely touch the earth.  His arms flapped clumsily as he tried to gain his balance.  He stumbled out of the track and onto the stone road.  He then stopped in horror.

On the western side, just before the street took a sharp turn, he saw the terrifying flames.   He thought to himself, something must have ignited in Peter’s bar, and the presents of alcohol, fuel for the flames.

He made his way down the street, racing once more.

A sole man, running as fast as his legs could carry him.

But nearing the flames, he beheld he is not alone.  About fifty or sixty meters away, the street, filled with residence, buckets in hand.  But as they threw water on the raging beast, this only served to infuriate the creature further.  The damage was already done, the structure, gutted.

Toney moved closer to assist, however, as he came about forty feet of the commotion, he made a grimmer discovery.  For it was not Peter’s bar being consumed, but Mr. Chin’s grocery, the place of his employment.

Toney ran to the side of the structure.  A chain of residence about ninety or maybe one hundred strong, snaked their way to the river; which passed a little less than quarter mile off the main road.

Mr. Chin’s house was almost attached to the grocery, with just about five feet separating the two.  Toney joined the line and started passing buckets of water.

After about five minutes into his arrival though, efforts turned from, trying to save the grocery, which by now was lost, to saving the closest structure.  As the beast of fury showed signs of ending on the skeleton of the grocery store, the famished dragon turned its head to the house of Mr. Chin.

Thick smoke engulfed the house, attempting to blind all who will venture to predict which section of the house to guard.

A faint cough could be heard, emanating from within the belly of the dwelling, it is Mr. Chin, but he is all alone.  His two daughters Clara and Ping are missing.  As he struggled to burst through the front door of the house, he heard a voice shout at him.

“Move away from the door, Chin!”  Sharp and commanding the voice.

No sooner had Mr. Chin dropped to the floor, a loud smashing sound came.  It was Jameson, chopping into the cedar door relentlessly.  It was as if he had rehearsed these movements over and over in his mind, waiting for this night to test the agility of the ax.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #27 (A part of my novel)

Inside, the two men went passed the other patrons and straight to the counter.  Only a few minutes had passed though.  But to Toney, he felt as if it was hours.  He was not the kind of man to sit still for any lengthy periods.  Being asked to sit still was like asking him to serve a lengthy prison sentence, for a crime he did not commit.

For those moments in the bar, he did sit; but rock back and forth, and tapped his fingers on his lap.  Then again, he was not much of a drinker.  So being in a bar was unnerving.

He felt the walls of the bar closing in on him.

The countertop, the only area of safety for him, a few times he rested his elbows on it; it sparkled.

The constant wiping on the countertop, by Peter, offered a welcoming distraction for Toney’s eyes.

The cream coloured walls, flaking, offered no beauty to the already dreary room.

It appeared, in every inch of the room, the mixture of sweat and liquor dancing violently in the air.  Toney’s stomach churned.  Glued to the countertop; he meandered his way in telling a bit about himself to Deo.

“Well, that is a little about me.  Nothing much too this man before you.  I am like a child in this place, brand new.”  Toney looked at the glass of whisky, twirling the last bit.

“I see…I see,” Deo shook his head, he too looked at the countertop.

“But, you have not really said much about yourself, who are you around here?”  Toney shrugged his shoulders.

Deo looked at Peter with a quick side glance.  Peter on the other side of the counter, with a white cotton cloth in his hand, had about six wine glasses in front of him.  Not in the conversation, but certainly close enough to hear the two men.  And maybe he did.  For as soon as he heard Toney’s question and got the glance from Deo, his countenance changed.

Peter moved away and tended to other customers.

Deo glanced at Toney, and then surveyed the bar on either side of his shoulders.  He appeared to look for something, something out of the ordinary.

Toney became concerned, but did not venture to speculate.

He waited for Deo to decide to answer, or at least process a response.

“Toney, all men are not build up equal,” Deo muttered in an undertone.  He peered into his glass of whisky, his eyes ferocious; more so than what it was outside a while ago.

“Okay.”

Deo gulped the last bit of the drink then continued, “Toney, I could sense you’re a good man, your heart, pure.  An adventurer, but your heart is pure.”  He gripped the glass closer in his fist.

“I am…”

“Over twelve years,” Deo bent his head back and closed his eyes, his breath is slow and deliberate; he dragged his words, “Toney, you tell me, what kind of man leaves his wife, his daughters, girls Toney, girls, and allows himself to go away!”

Toney bit down gently on his tongue, then attempted to fix himself on the bar stool, “Deo, you—”.

Deo interrupted him.  Toney acted surprised, but was relieved to not make a comment.  Really not knowing what he would have said.

“Toney, a ruthless man, I am a ruthless man!”  Not wanting to draw attention to himself, but apparently not realizing his strength, slammed the glass against the counter.

“Well, Deo…”

“That is okay Toney you could say it,” Deo jumped off the stool, stood, then pushed the glass away from him.

The two raised their heads recognizing Peter had moved closer to where they were.

“Deo, I think you had enough,” Peter said, as he reached for Deo’s glass.

Deo looked at the glass in Peters hand; he became pensive, hypnotized by something, “Yeah well…,” he mumbled.

Peter cleared his throat and turned to Toney’s glass.  Toney slid it to Peter’s reach, he too stood, frozen; waiting.

Then Peter spoke, “Ruthless men do not feel shame and guilt, but conscious men do.  You have returned, Deo, you are here now.  Shelly is happy, the girls are happy.  You have matured and I am sure that no one really treated you badly since your return.”

Deo bent his head, placed both hands in his pocket and turned away from Peter, leaving the bar.

Toney looked at Peter.  His both hands, palms opened, moved closer to his chest.  His eyebrow closed in to each other.

Peter though will have no curious question.  “And, please, am…,” he waved his finger.

“Toney.”

“Yes you, Toney.  Don’t ask me anything about the man’s past.  Just leave it alone.  No one around here wants to remember.  You hear me stranger?.”

Toney awkwardly moved the right side of his face.  He shook his head as a child being scolded for an unlawful act.

Peter attempted to walk away to attend too another customer, when Toney called out to him.  “Peter, I am looking for work, do you…, or do you know of anyone who needs someone to employ?  I am good with my hands.”

Peter stopped, held his hands over his mouth, then tilted his head as he close one eye. “Well I needed someone to help around here, but already contacted a person.  Actually, she is expected today, come to think of it, haven’t seen her yet though.”

Toney nodded and gave a little smiled.  “Well if you hear of any opportunities let me know,” he said and turned to leave the bar.

“Oh, wait,” Peter jerked his index finger in the air, signaling Toney.

“Yes,” Toney stopped, clasped his hands behind his back and bended slightly forward.

“You know, Mr. Chin Soo Chow asked me a few weeks back, if I knew any handy man.  At the time there weren’t any willing to take the job.  But I really didn’t hear him say anything about finding anyone.”

“Alright, I guessed that’s good news then.  I will check him out sometime this morning,” he smiled.

Urging Toney to go see Mr. Chin, right away, he waved his palms at him, then pointed, allowing Toney’s head to follow in the direction of his hands.  “He is next door, he owns the grocery store.”

“Nice, thanks.”

Toney, became spirited, thanked Peter and headed for the door.

A young, tall, gorgeously looking woman entered the bar, passing him on his way out, he nodded at her and proceeded to push the swinging doors and exited.

He brought his steps to a halt, turning.  Behind him he heard Peter vocalized something.  As he tiptoed over the swinging door, he saw Peter moved from behind the counter and stood in the middle of the walk way.

“Men, stop what you’re doing for a moment, and yes, Dennis that means you too,” Peter said.  He was quite assertive.  So much so, that every man in the bar stopped, raised his head and listened.  “Let me make this very clear—.”

But before Peter could continue, he was interrupted by Dennis.

“My goodness, Peter, who is that sweet girl?”  Dennis yelled, while he rose to his feet.

Some of the men chuckled.

Peter quickly made his voice overpowering once more, “Yes about this girl,” Peter suspended his words for a few seconds to glance in the direction of Dennis, “Dennis, I think you should remained standing, because when I am through with what I have to say, you will leave.  I will see you tomorrow, not today again but tomorrow, right!”

Dennis appeared to ignore Peter, pulling his stool closer to him to sit back down again.  The stool made a scraping noise against the rustic floor.

About twenty, or so, men were in the bar.  With horrid stares on their faces, they turned to look at Dennis.  His body arched to sit.

Peter’s toes itched to move in Dennis direction.

There was a silence, overshadowing the bar’s misty air.

Toney, still stationed at the door, heard an influencing tone from the other side of the bar.

“Dennis, you heard the man, we’ll see you tomorrow!”  The voice, assertive as well, but friendlier than Peter’s.

“That’s find Zig, I was leaving anyway,” Dennis responded.

Peter came back into the conversation, appearing to not be overly sidetracked by what had just happened.  “Now this is Candy, she’s my niece.  She’s now staying in the house just right around the bend, after the cemetery.  I think most of you will have remembered my older sister, Miss Joanna, who lived obliquely opposite the primary school.”

“Oh, yes man, I remember her, Miss Joanna, boy.  I for one sorry she gone,” Zig said nodding.

A few men chattered quietly among themselves about what Peter’s sister had taught them at school.

“She will be our waitress from today, she is to be respected and I ask that she shows each of you the same.  So are we are clear?”

Like a choir after the orchestra played the introductory piece, the men harmoniously bellowed, ‘yes’ to Peter’s request.

Peter now focused his attention on Candy.  He hugged her tightly, and kissed her on the forehead.

Dennis made his way out of the bar grumbling something to Toney as he brushed passed him.

Toney chuckled to himself.  Unto the streets, he entered the blazing sun and glorious light which emanated from the heavens, upon Kiskadee village.  As he walked in the direction of Mr. Chin’s grocery he squinted, trying to adjust his eyes to the brilliant light.  By now the sun was directly overhead.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #25 (A part of my novel)

The two moved closer to the gentleman.  At first, he appeared not to recognize anyone standing at his side.  He simply remained staring at an ax in his hand.

The man took a deep breath, and cleared his throat a couple times.

Holding the ax firmly in his hands, he rotated his shoulders, as if in his mind, he struck the blade at the truck of a three.  Methodically, he did the motion about two or three times, and then froze.

Jason moved a bit closer to his father, arching his body as if to use his father as a shield, should the man turned crazy.

The man raised the ax slowly, high above his head.  Then he brought it down, almost in a straight line, unhurriedly.  It came to a stop, about three inches from the table top.

He remained holding the ax firmly in the same position.

Toney remained quiet as well, observing a moment of silence with this stranger.  His son, to the back of him, his blood running scared follow suit.

The man drew in a long breath and paused.  Gently nodding his head, he removed a hand from the ax, give a thumps up and released the breath.

“Okay…okay,” Toney said as he rubbed his palms together.  He made a stepped back, about an inch; figuratively giving the stranger some room to breathe.

Between Toney and the man there was a communication.  Jason was unaware of what all of this meant, but knew something had just taken place, between the man, the ax and his father; something sacred.  He just made it out to be something only men like his father and this stranger will understand.  For him, he will have preferred to leave this establishment by now.  That is, if his legs will have carried he at that time.

“Jameson is the name,” the man said softly.

Then like a new born baby, he rested the ax on a cleared space on the table.  “Haven’t seen your face around here before,”  Jameson turned to Toney and his son, his hands stretched out to greet Toney.

“Toney, the name is Toney, and, this is my son,” Toney motioned with his left thumb, moving out the way to expose Jason to the view of the man.

“Go on boy, tell the man your name,” Toney grunted.

“That’s alright Toney, the young man and I will have enough time to catch up.”

Toney looked at his fingernails, “How do you know it isn’t I who want the job?”

Jameson turned his head away from the two and straight in front of him.  “At my age, you get to be able to read people, and besides your hands are not for grinding, maybe farming.”

Jameson pulled the rubber band off his ponytail, exposing the strikes of grays in his unruly blond hair.

“Carpentry, Mr. Jameson, carpentry.”

“Well Toney, son, you learn every day,” he replied, while picking up the ax to examine its blade.

“Dad, you’re going to leave me here?”  Jason’s voice cracked.

Toney tapped his son on his shoulders a couple times, “He is a good man son, I trust him.”

“Okay, so you trust him.  We just met the guy.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Great, that’s just great!”  Jason raised his hands and dropped it at his side.

Jameson seemed undeterred.  He just kept at what he was doing; examining the ax in his hands.

As Toney made his way out of the shop, leaving Jason behind, Jameson called out to him.  “Two dollars an hour, the pay is two dollars an hour.  Work starts at eight and ends at four o’ clock, you will see him then.”

Toney did not look back, but raised his hand and waved.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.

The Skies Are Lighted With Lamps #13 (A part of my novel)

Now, the house was a wooden ‘L’ shaped structure with three rooms; two ten by twelve bedrooms and a ten by ten kitchen area.  The average size of most houses in the area.  The toilet and room for bathing was outside.  This too was the same for a number of other people in the neighborhood.  The community was simply designed, and the people had a view of not having too much bothered them.

                                   ***

Since Deo was gone for years and Sarah, at the time was still a baby, she shared the bedroom with her mother up to that point.  The other three girls shared the other bedroom.  Each night the girls enjoyed staying up late, talking to each other about hair styles, the eligible young men or clothing which they saw in old catalogs swapped with other girls in the village.  This night though was to be different.  Without the girl’s mother barking at them to go to bed, they willingly left the table for their respective rooms.

Copyright © 2017 David Alexian

All rights reserved.