Literacy is a complex and multifaceted skill which changes enormously as it is acquired

The following is a paragraph from a chapter written by Catherine Snow that I am keen to share. Why? The paragraph (and the chapter) engages with the changing nature of literacy as the child (or individual) develop, which requires teachers to be vigilant in providing the right instruction, opportunities and extension at the right time. Please enjoy ... and also seek out the chapter.

From Snow, C. (2004) What counts as literacy in early childhood? In K. McCartney & D. Phillips (Eds.), Handbook of early child development. Oxford: Blackwell.

"Everyone agrees that literacy is a complex and multifaceted skill which changes enormously as it is acquired ... [For instance], the typical three-year-old can recognize some books by their covers, knows how to hold books upright and turn pages, listens when read to, expects to be able to understand pictures in books, may distinguish pictures from print, may recognize some letters, and produces purposeful-looking scribbles.

"The typical four year old has learned to recite the alphabet and to recognize several letters, connects events in stories to ‘real life,’ understands that stories are different from notes or lists, may produce rhymes or alliterations, and may scribble, pretend-write, or draw with a communicative purpose.

"The typical kindergartner knows about titles and authors of books, may track the print when being read to from familiar simple books, can name all and write most of the letters, can recognize and spell some simple words, spontaneously questions events in stories and information books, and uses mostly invented spelling in writing.

"The typical first grader is starting to get a serious handle on the system of writing, is able to read accurately and fluently texts that include previously taught spelling patterns, uses letter-sound correspondence to sound out new words, spells with a combination of conventional and invented spelling, monitors her own writing and reading for correctness, and understands the differences among a wide variety of texts (informal notes, informative texts, stories, poems, slogans, lists, and so forth).

"In 2nd and 3rd grade, the typically developing child becomes increasingly accurate and fluent with an ever wider variety of spelling patterns, becomes able to tackle more complex texts independently, knows how to seek help from a dictionary or an adult with difficult words or ideas, writes a wide array of text-types increasingly conventionally and with ever greater capacity to revise independently, and infers the meanings of unfamiliar words encountered in otherwise comprehensible text.

"Of course, literacy growth continues after grade 3—the capacity to read with different purposes, to learn from reading, to critique the text, to compare and contrast points of view when reading, and in other ways to produce and process complex tests may continue to develop through adulthood. But the skills acquired by 3rd grade (acquired only, of course, if children enjoy home, preschool, and primary grade environments that support these learnings) constitute the firm foundation on which those more complex skills depend."