Myth: Oral language must develop before written language can begin.
Children are still in the process of mastering some of the basic aspects of oral language until the age of 5 or 6. For this reason, people once thought that written language development should not begin until after that age.
Although oral language development is essential to good written language development, it is not a prerequisite in the way once believed. Oral and written language skills develop simultaneously, with each supporting the other. For example, good oral vocabulary helps children understand stories adults read to them, and later stories they read to themselves.
Myth: Children learn oral language naturally, but they acquire literacy related knowledge only through direct instruction.
The belief that children do not learn about aspects of written language somewhat as they develop oral language results from misunderstanding about the development of both oral and written language. First, the experiences needed to support oral language learning, have often gone unrecognized. Second, the beginnings of literacy development have often been completely overlooked or ignored.
Myth: Children must achieve a certain level of physical and mental readiness before written language learning can occur.
Some children mature early in the ways needed; others mature late. Variations in rates of literacy development are due primarily to individual differences in children's learning rates, rather than to differences in children's early literacy experiences.
Emily Land is AIDS Project Los Angeles' Child Care Specialist. She can be reached by calling (213) 201-1504 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.