From 1st September 2021, the statutory framework for the EYFS (2021) states that educational programmes must involve activities and experiences for children, as set out under each of the areas of learning.
It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading. Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth. It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together. Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).
Before children become readers, they need to be confident communicators with a wide vocabulary and a secure understanding of language. Their listening skills need to have developed so that they can hear the sounds and syllables in words (phonological awareness).
Children’s past experiences will have helped them to understand that print carries meaning and they will have watched others modelling, enjoying and retrieving information from reading. Extending this knowledge in ways that are fun and meaningful to the children helps them to develop the curiosity to explore the sounds in words (phonemes) and later begin to make the link between the sounds and their corresponding letters (graphemes).
Letters and Sounds is a valuable teaching tool that supports children’s progress as they move towards becoming a reader. Phase One of ‘Letters and Sounds’ provides a range of ideas for developing a strong foundation in listening skills, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and oral blending and segmenting.
Before children become writers, they need to have been in an environment that supports their understanding of print and to have seen people writing for a range of purposes. Rich opportunities to explore mark-making indoors and outside, will help children to communicate their ideas across all seven areas of learning.
Writing development is also dependent on children’s physical development and particularly on their fine motor control and hand-eye coordination. Long before children have the understanding and motivation to make their first attempts at writing, practitioners should provide activities and experiences that ensure that children have the skills that they need to be successful writers. These include children’s physical skills from throwing balls to rolling play dough, their imagination and their sequencing skills.
They need to know how to blend sounds together to form words, to segment words into sounds and to make the link between sounds and their corresponding letters. Above all, they need the confidence to make choices and ‘have a go’, without fear of being wrong.