Young children develop communication abilities as soon as they are born and their perception of the world begins. This process starts way before they can talk and is expressed in diverse ways that may be considered minor but are important developments that pave the way for literacy. In this context, literacy is considered the possession of the ability to read and write. A long but interesting journey precedes this state and it begins almost at the moment of birth.
Infants and toddlers learn in radically different ways when compared to adults. Since they are born with what can be called a fresh brain that has no prior impressions, their alacrity for knowledge is much stronger than older people. This makes them view the learning process as a holistic undertaking in which every available facet can be applied; physical, mental, emotional and social. When viewed physically, young children quickly learn that books are meant to be read and for this to happen; they must be held or placed on some support, probably with fingers used to guide the eyes in moving across the pages. When viewed mentally, young children realise fairly early that what they learn, such as words and their pronunciations, must be committed to memory so that they can be applied in future. Emotionally, children who are learning literacy skills adapt certain attitudes, such as paying attention when being taught, which they are aware will facilitate the education processes.
Lastly, the social angle shows that in most societies where there’s a modicum of literacy, young children embrace the education process, and the resulting literacy, as a means to acquire knowledge and progress in life. All these education processes take place simultaneously with no distinct beginning or end from the moment the child is born to the age of proficiency in literacy as adults. The key resource for young children in acquiring literacy is language. These are the words, their pronunciations and the methods by which they are combined and used as understood by a community.
Once young children have crossed the stage of learning how to speak a language, it is much easier to teach them how to read and write it. This is because they will be already familiar with the words that they come across, which makes the learning process easier. This is the point where adults’ contribution proves valuable. By responding to young children and helping them whenever they try to repeat or pronounce words, adults satiate the curiosity which soon progresses to the stage of reading and writing. Youngsters also learn the flow of conversations from talking to adults and this is crucial when the construction of words, sentences, paragraphs and conversations comes up in the learning process. Punctuation and speech are also facilitated when open communication with adults is maintained. Programs dedicated to the enhancement of literacy in young children tend to be centred on one particular activity; reading.
The common approaches are usually divided into two groups; those that involve training youngsters on how to read and those that involve adults from different walks of life reading different types of materials to young children. This commonly takes the form of literacy fairs at different institutions within the community. The chief aim of these activities is to simply improve literacy among young children, which then opens the door for education and the eradication of ignorance, the cause of disease and poverty.