I asked a few colleagues to share their definitions of “Emergent Literacy” with me. If you’d like to read their Bio information, please visit the Resources pages.

A fun explanation of Emergent Literacy from Lewis-Clark State College

Another explanation can be found from KBYU Eleven

Here’s how Early Childhood News describes Emergent Literacy

Here is what some of my colleagues had to say:

Dr. Sally Goldberg:

Do you know anyone who is illiterate, cannot read and write? Probably not. More than likely the people you know grew up in an advantaged environment and had many of the benefits of rich language experiences. There are four aspects of a language-rich environment that begin best in natural and enjoyable ways–reading, writing, understanding, and speaking. Singing fits right in there too as an enrichment activity. Learning to read and being able to write, however, are tricky and best started as part of an entire “emergent literacy” process that begins in the early years and continues on throughout life.

These four parts are related to each other in interesting ways.

*You read what someone has written and write for others to read.
*You understand what someone has spoken and you read what others have written.
*You understand and read (receptive) on a higher level than you can speak or write (expressive).
*Understanding provides a foundation for speaking, and reading provides the background for writing.

NOTE: About 14 percent of Americans are known to be illiterate, and statistics from the U.S. Education Department show that about 32 million people in our country cannot read.

Dara Blaker:

The way the written language comes through a person in a natural and experiential way.

Ava Parnass:

What is emergent literacy for reading or emergent emotional literacy? It’s the process of learning that starts very early from birth where baby’s learn and are taught in many different ways. The emerging process over the years eventually culminates in the ability to read and write and for emotions, it’s the ability to know how they feel inside, instead of communicating by misbehaving or overeating. The literature goes on to say that emergent literacy has four cornerstones that are used to develop and enhance your children’s growth and development. For parents who want to incorporate  the new research, the four areas of the emergent process are: Language Development , Physical Development, Cognitive Development and Social Emotional Development.

Louise Sattler:

Emergent Literacy is the ‘art of learning language for learning about life.’ Whether the ability to read a newspaper, traffic signs or letters from loved ones, emergent literacy builds those blocks to enable you to succeed in life. For the multilingual child, doors open even wider as communication flows as easy as switching on and off lights in a room.  They can all be on, or just some.

Karen Nemeth:

To be honest, I don’t like the term “emergent literacy”. I think literacy is a developmental process that begins, in a way, before birth and is never finished. So I think literacy is in a constant state of emerging. Since my professional focus is about the development of language, I always see the components of language development as integral parts of the literacy development process. The sounds of speech that the human brain learns before birth, the cooing and response between an infant and loving caregiver, the early gesture like holding up his hands when mom comes to pick him up, and the crazy scribbling of a toddler who first gets her hands on some fat crayons are all elements of what could be considered ’emergent literacy’. In some countries, the teaching of literacy skills begins with writing and expressing the child’s own thoughts before moving on to reading and understanding the thoughts of others. There’s no one right way to teach emerging literacy because each child’s brain is prepared to develop literacy in a different way. Two things we can be sure of for all children in all languages: 1.) Literacy has to be taught. It doesn’t really just emerge on its own. But there are lots of naturalistic, fun, playful, realistic, communicative and practical ways to teach how literacy works without boring the crap out of a child. 2.) The teaching of literacy skills can happen in the normal, wonderful, interesting, wacky, amazing conversations, explorations, and interactions we have with children every day – reading stories and really talking about them, commenting when we see a familiar sign, singing songs and really getting into the rhyme and rhythm, learning words in different languages, pretending to take notes or write messages, using sign language and puppets to communicate, and listening…. really truly listening to each child as the unique and brilliant individual that he or she is. That’s it. If we do all that, everything else will fall into place!

{Please note: More definitions will be added to this page over time.}