Literacy includes language, reading, and writing, interrelated concepts that reflect and support a child’s overall thinking. Within these concepts are discrete areas that support the development of the broader concepts listed above. Literacy development is contextual, occurring within the supportive environments of the home and school, where family members and teachers support the child’s development through interactions, location-specific opportunities, and relationships. We have developed a model to illustrate how this learning occurs, and we have chosen to organize the book around these central concepts (see Figure 1.1).
1.5a The Nest
The overarching literacy concepts frame the nest and surround the bird. The three concepts, language development, writing, and reading are interconnected and collectively support the child’s literacy development. A child’s capacity for developing their reading, writing, and language skills is continuous. In other words, as the child continues to engage in meaningful interactions with others, reading, and writing, they will expand and enhance their proficiencies within each literacy concept. While the overarching literacy concepts are continuous, children bolster their literacy knowledge when they acquire discrete literacy skills as well. Discrete skills (e.g., directionality of text, phonemic awareness, alphabet and word awareness,) support children’s literacy progression. In contrast to continuous literacy concept development, once a child acquires a discrete skill, that knowledge is then used by the child to engage in subsequent literacy experiences.
1.5b The Bird
In the nested literacy model, the child is in the center, represented in our model by the bird. Children bring with them into their learning environments prior knowledge, language experiences, and print knowledge. Their experiences bring opportunities for the child to strengthen literacy concepts (i.e., language development, reading, and writing) and acquire new knowledge. As the child interacts with their environment and is provided with literacy-rich opportunities, the child’s emergent literacy abilities develop and grow. The child uses these abilities to engage family members, classmates, and others, establishing a continuous and iterative cycle of literacy learning.
1.5c The Branch
The home/family, community, and school environments are the wider contexts in which the child is quite literally nested. As a child interacts with the environment, they develop expressive and receptive language, reading, and writing skills. The tree branch supports the nest and the child as they continue to grow and construct meaning while engaging in social interactions. The tree branch literally provides a scaffold for the child and highlights the importance of a supportive environment. Rich literacy interactions and cognitive growth are enhanced when the environmental factors and contexts (e.g., school, community, family, health, economic) provide a positive and healthy space for children to explore, interact, and engage. All of these elements will be explored in detail in subsequent chapters and continue to demonstrate the interactions among the child, the emergent literacy components, and the broader environmental factors that enhance children’s emerging literacies.