Early Childhood Development Hinges On Literacy

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Education Officer, Monica Walton goes through one of her slides on building a professional portfolio during her presentation at the PVSP seminar. (Nigel Wallace)

A lesson in literacy and literacy development is what parent volunteers received this week, when the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development held a workshop for them in the auditorium of the St. Leonard’s Boy’s School.

Those who attended the one-day training were told by Education Officer, Monica Walton, that literacy comprised several processes. "Literacy is communication in all forms: listening, speaking, singing, reading and writing and it continues to evolve from the time children are born…when a child creates with blocks, when he communicates with paint, when he uses his body freely as a means of expression, he is being taught to read," Mrs. Walton explained.??

She added that literacy development, in the early years of a child’s life, included "listening, observing, thinking and expressing through multiple symbol systems that can include speaking, reading and writing". Referring to the literature, the Education Officer said that immersion in language, from early, had an effect on a student’s writing, reading, thinking and speaking skills as well as his/her total behaviour.

Stressing that literacy development often began before formal schooling, Mrs. Walton noted: "So the early experiences that children may have, set the stage for literacy development, that is how they are going to read and write [later on]."?? The parent volunteers, who will be expected to work with three to five-year-olds, were also told that print-rich environments were necessary for children at that stage to learn and the Education Officer pointed out that there should be a number of these text and other materials in a child’s educational space.??

Ms. Walton, a former teacher, lamented the fact that some students, although having attended pre-school and spent early years in primary school, could not read on reaching class one.?? "You would hear ???I can’t read’ and you would wonder what is happening between the transition from pre-school to primary from infant classes to lower juniors to upper juniors and?? to secondary," she bemoaned.

Parents heard too, that this demanded "critical attention". Mrs. Walton said: "Learning to read and write is critical to a child’s success; if they cannot read, they are going to struggle; if they cannot interpret what they read or [cannot] write it down so that they can communicate with others, they are going to struggle. Reading and writing are interrelated; they can only write if they understand what you are asking them. It is only then that they can respond."

It was also noted that literacy developed every day and that it was imperative that parent volunteers play a part in activities to foster such development. While the Education Officer explained that certain standards addressed whether children were developing normally or experiencing developmental delays, she urged volunteers to see that as adults, their response impacted the child’s own response and behaviour.????

Other areas discussed during the session included: activities to support literacy, alphabet learning and continuous professional development for the several parent volunteers across the island.

The training will continue for the cohort on April 26 and 27 at the same venue.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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