Early Intervention Matters: A Literacy Narrative

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As a child in a low-income family, resources for early literacy experiences were limited. I grew up in a family of 6; my dad was the only one employed while my mom stayed home. I was never able to attend a preschool, it was an expense we could not afford, and with mom staying home there was no reason for childcare. When I look at the experience’s children have today, preschool and or childcare could have exposed me to early literacy experiences that could have significantly impacted my abilities and desires as a literate person today.

Our Home was made up of the bare minimums our family could afford. There were no books, nothing to draw or write with and no one reading to us as children. We spent our days exploring outside, playing with friends and making mud pies. Reading and writing were not things my parents exposed us to in our early years. These experiences have led me to where I am today, an older than average, first-time college student, struggling through the reading and writing portions of my class assignments.

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Looking back to my first experiences with reading and writing, they are vastly different, then the children today experience. Entering kindergarten for the first time, was scary and exciting; I knew nothing other than how to play. The one thing I remember when I entered the school, was a great fear of the unknown and not wanting to stay. I wanted to go home where it was safe; I knew everyone, and my only expectation was to play.

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Hiding behind my mom that very first day, the teacher, Mrs. M approached us. At that moment she peered around my mom’s legs and told me I would be ok. She also stated it would be fun and I would learn to write my name, she then reached out her hand. The teacher had me excited; I was going to learn to write my name, and off we went with her holding my hand. Still fearing the unknown and now having to trust someone I did not know, I walked with her as my mom left. Mrs. M took me to a place in the room filled with dolls and a ‘play house’ set up and walked away; this is where I played with other children for quite a while.

Before entering kindergarten, I did not even recognize the letter’s that created my name, much less be able to write them. Learning to read, write or learn the letters of the alphabet was not something my parents put much emphasis on or taught me in my early years. To my parents, this was the expectations of the teachers and the education system; the reason we as students went to school. The requirements for children are vastly different from that of children entering kindergarten today. Being able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet, know their name and write it, are almost expected upon arriving that first day of kindergarten.

According to former teacher Jessica Schmock, kindergarten once was based on the structured play allowing children to develop skills in their own time. Whereas today, classrooms are intense academic environments where kids who cannot grasp the basics of reading before the first grade are considered already behind the kids who can. This new pressure in the kindergarten classroom to excel at this age leaves children less time to play and move as in years past, even though studies show movement is important for physical and cognitive development. (1)

Elementary school as I remember it, was just as Jessica describes it, structured play. The kindergarten classroom where I attended was made up of play centers with lots of toys; more toys than I had ever seen. We did have an art center, but from what I remember there were only coloring sheets, crayons, paste, and scissors with expectations of what we were to create; nothing was created with our imaginations. We would rotate through all the centers before it was time to go home. The ones I remember the most are the playhouse center and the art center. None of these centers contained books of any kind. Books in elementary school were only for the teachers to read to us; they were not something we could touch feel or explore on our own. Reading and exploring books was a nonexistent activity in my first influential years.

Throughout my elementary grades, reading and writing were not where I focused my efforts. Through these years, I did not enjoy reading or even looking at books. At that time, I was more focused on subjects that required little to no effort on my part; the favorites of which were art, gym, and music. This continued throughout my high school years as well; I excelled in subjects where reading and writing were not a significant part of my overall grade. I enrolled the bare minimum of classes required to graduate. Art, Choir and JROTC were a focal point for me, this where I placed the most effort. To this day I am not a reader, I would not say I like reading and would in no way curl up with a book intentionally to read. I often ponder on whether my lack of desire or enjoyment with these activities stemmed from very little exposure to literacy activities in my early years. If I compare myself to my child, who is a kindergartener this year, reading books is something she strives to do. She knew most of her letters and letter sounds before entering school and could write her name. These are the same things I was not able to accomplish at the same age.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who were introduced to books at a younger age tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who were not exposed language and books at a young age. They say more than 1 in 3 children enter kindergarten without the skills needed to learn to read. However, children who enter school with these skills have an advantage that carries with them throughout their academic years. (2)

To this day I do not enjoy reading and writing. I am more apt to turn on a television news program versus grabbing a book. Reading is something I do not enjoy; stress consumes me if I am in a position where I am required to read, and I tend to get distracted numerous times while doing so. Writing in a journal is the only form of writing I have attempted, I say tried because it is not something, I enjoy can only stick with it for a few days.

There to me seems to be a direct correlation between my lack of early literacy exposure and my lack of enjoyment for reading and writing. Throughout my school years, I never excelled in my academics; I only managed to get by. If I had been exposed to books and writing or even drawing as a 4-year-old where would I be today? Would I be excited to pull out a book like my kindergarten daughter; who was exposed to reading and writing from an early age? Would I love writing and excel at it like my Junior high school daughter; who was also exposed to early literacy in every form as a preschooler? I cannot be for sure, but it seems as though over time, the increased requirements for kindergarten and previous exposure to literacy in order meet those requirements has helped my children develop lifelong skills to carry them through their academic years.

While early literacy exposer has increased over the years, there will always be children who miss out on these experiences for one reason or another just as I did. I often wonder if the pressure I feel now, as I write papers and read on a college level, is what the children of the future will feel in elementary school as the requirements and expectations for education increase. How will this increased pressure in the early years affect a child’s desires and academic performances.

Works Cited

  1. Strauss, Valerie. Mom: Why I don’t want my son to read in Kindergarten. September 16th, 2016 Web: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/09/06/mom-why-i-dont-want-my-son-to-read-in-kindergarten/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d9e9e94cf114
  2. Raising Readers. Why is early literacy important? Web 2018

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Early Intervention Matters: A Literacy Narrative. (2021, Oct 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/early-intervention-matters-a-literacy-narrative-essay

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