The development of early reading skills is critical for modern children, and educators pay much attention to the choice of books and the quality of their content. Reading helps to calm down, relax, examine the world, enlarge the level of knowledge, socialise, and even build confidence (Young Readers Foundations, 2018). However, the global pandemic has affected the book industry and provoked reading difficulties among children, which results in re-evaluation of early reading skills and the role of adults in children’s reading experiences (Cabrera, 2020; United Nations, 2021). A range of children’s books has to be improved, focusing on phonological awareness, the combination of literacy skills, and the involvement of supportive people.
Range of Children’s Texts
The growth of children depends on many factors, and one of them is a range of books young readers could use. Today, children’s literature includes picture books, short stories, poetry, songs, and comics that address young readers (Alvstad, 2019). Each source of information has its peculiarities and goals. For example, picture books contain visual and verbal material with the help of which children contribute to their symbolic understanding, analogical reasoning, and the differentiation between reality and fantasy (Strouse, Nyhout and Ganea, 2018). Young readers observe images, listen to what is read by an adult, and make their first meaningful comparisons. Fantasy books, or chapter books, introduce the world of magic, paranormal events, and unusual situations where animals could talk, and ordinary subjects possess power (Corona, 2017). Realistic fiction and traditional literature are used for educational purposes to help a child learn about the world and become its meaningful part.
Importance of Developing Phonological Awareness
When parents, teachers, or other regular caregivers choose the reading material for their children, they have to use specific teaching strategies. Talbot (2020) underlines the significance of phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate letter sounds) as a part of phonological awareness built in the preschool period and defines reading and spelling skills. Phonological awareness is necessary to identify and use different phonological units, which allows understanding words, improving learning, and reading independently with time (Milankov et al., 2021). When children are able to combine sounds, they get themselves prepared for reading and spelling. With time, educators must explain the meaning of sounds and syllables. Still, spelling and writing have nothing in common with phonological awareness in children’s literature because associations between letters and sounds only matter (Clayton et al., 2019). As soon as children succeed in using and comprehending phonemes and sounds, they take a crucial step to develop their early reading skills.
Texts to Develop Early Reading Skills
Early reading is an achievement for many families where the child’s development is considered. As well as reading to a child plays a crucial role, the promotion of reading skills has to be encouraged with attention to children’s linguistic and cognitive competencies (Niklas, Cohrssen and Tayler, 2016). Pre-literacy skills may be well developed or damaged, depending on the chosen book. Therefore, it is important to know why reading matters and what can be done at an early stage when knowledge is minimal. Many researchers agree that children whose reading is driven by interest are more successful in developing their skills (Parry and Taylor, 2018; Saracho, 2017; Walgermo et al., 2018). Not to lose their desire to read or at least observe books, children need motivation, extra support, and professional stimulation like a favourable environment or an appropriate context (Axelsson, Lundqvist and Sandberg, 2020). Thus, parents and educators try to offer exciting short stories to their children where rhyme and simple words are used. Pictures also raise the interest of a young reader to pay more attention to the book, advance comprehension and vocabulary.
The Role of Adults in Supporting Children Experiences with Literature
In addition to the quality of the texts in children’s literature, the role of parents has to be underlined. These people usually support the development of the child and the enhancement of language and reading skills (Reggin et al., 2019). When a child attends a school, a number of rules should be followed, which affects the attitudes of children toward reading tasks. Thus, parents begin literary progress early before formal schooling. Parents are the first teachers for their children who introduce reading for pleasure and learning new material with fun (Bano, Jabeen and Qutoshi, 2018). The role of adults in supporting children’s experiences with literature may be improved in many ways. There can be storytimes for a family to read something new. To make this activity more captivating, adults should share similar books (to prove their interest in the child’s activity) or create a reading corner at home (to encourage the reading desire). Bano, Jabeen and Qutoshi (2018) show that children whose adults never support their reading experiences lag behind the group. Adults show to combine reading with games, determining fluency, speed, and comprehension.
Reflective Reading Skills
In addition to properly developed reading skills, children need to know how to reflect on when they read or hear. In most cases, students try to memorise the answers to specific questions and ignore the rest of the text when completing their regular tasks (Bano, Jabeen and Qutoshi, 2018). Reflective reading at an early age is a chance to show children how to enjoy the reading process and its outcomes, how to know the answers and pose new quotes, and how to participate in an interesting discussion. Young readers like to compare themselves with characters and think about what they could do like the main characters (Walgermo et al., 2018). Regarding such intentions, self-awareness, a deep understanding of the text, comparison, and questions are defined as the necessary skills in reflective reading.
Skills in Selecting Texts for Children
Finding children’s literature should not be a challenge for parents and children. There are many recommendations on how to choose a text for early childhood reading activities. Saracho (2017) combines a high literacy level with self-concepts and interests. One of the skills to select a text is observation and critical thinking. Parents and other engaged adults should know what their children like and prefer to know. In most cases, young boys are attracted by construction and cars, and girls want to know about fashion or animals. Comprehensive development and the ability to compare and contrast are also critical skills as they allow adults to offer a variety of books. Finally, cooperation is what young learners appreciate and want to observe in their relationships with adults.
Children’s literature plays a vital role in early childhood development. A number of skills should be recognised at an early stage, and reading is an activity when the first tasks emerge. Children read together with or for their parents or listen to what their parents tell. As such, phonological awareness, fluency, critical thinking, and analytical skills are formed during the first reading practices. Young readers need support from adults, and the role of their parents becomes an essential part of the research. Reading is not only an interesting and informative but motivating and supportive background for children to succeed in writing and further education.
Alvstad, C. (2019) ‘Children’s literature,’ in Washbourne, K. and van Wyke, B. (eds.) The Routledge handbook of literary translation. New York: Routledge, pp. 159-180.
Axelsson, A., Lundqvist, J. and Sandberg, G. (2020) ‘Influential factors on children’s reading and writing development: the perspective of parents in a Swedish context’, Early Child Development and Care, 190(16), pp. 2520-2532.
Bano, J., Jabeen, Z. and Qutoshi, S.B. (2018) ‘Perceptions of teachers about the role of parents in developing reading habits of children to improve their academic performance in schools’, Journal of Education and Educational Development, 5(1), pp. 42-59.
Cabrera, I. (2020) World reading habits in 2020 [infographic].
Clayton, F.J. et al. (2020) ‘A longitudinal study of early reading development: letter-sound knowledge, phoneme awareness and RAN, but not letter-sound integration, predict variations in reading development’, Scientific Studies of Reading, 24(2), pp. 91-107.
Corona, L. (2017) Children’s literature types.
Milankov, V. et al. (2021) ‘Phonological awareness as the foundation of reading acquisition in students reading in transparent orthography’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(10). doi: 10.3390/ijerph18105440
Niklas, F., Cohrssen, C. and Tayler, C. (2016) ‘The sooner, the better: early reading to children’, SAGE Open, 6(4). doi: 10.1177/2158244016672715
Parry, R. L. and Taylor, L. (2018) ‘Readers in the round: children’s holistic engagements with texts’, Literacy, 52(2), pp. 103-110.
Reggin, L. et al. (2019) ‘Parents play a key role in fostering children’s love of reading’, The Conversation, (September).
Saracho, O. N. (2017) ‘Literacy and language: new developments in research, theory, and practice’, Early Child Development and Care, 187(3-4), pp. 299-304.
Strouse, G. A., Nyhout, A. and Ganea, P. A. (2018) ‘The role of book features in young children’s transfer of information from picture books to real-world contexts’, Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00050
United Nations (2021) 100 million more children fail basic reading skills because of COVID-9.
Walgermo, B.R. et al. (2018) ‘Developmental dynamics of early reading skill, literacy interest and readers’ self-concept within the first year of formal schooling’, Reading and Writing, 31(6), pp. 1379-1399.
Young Readers Foundations (2018) The importance of reading: why we should read books every day.